CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao: Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who visited the 6th Army Division said the Philippine government is considering to require the US military to inform the country first of any surveillance movement in disputed waters in Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
Lorenzana’s statement came after the Chinese Navy intercepted a US underwater drone, “Ocean Slider,” triggering further animosity between the two superpowers.
According to the Defense secretary, he was shocked when his US counterpart told him about the underwater drone that was confiscated by a Chinese Navy warship recently.
“The US reported to us, saying, ‘For your information an unmanned vehicle was taken by the Chinese.’ So I responded, ‘So you conduct activity there without our knowledge?’” Lorenzana told members of the 6th Infantry Kampilan Press Corps.
“I think one of these days we will require the US to inform us what they are doing there [Scarborough or Panatag Shoal],” he said.
Lorenzana added that the territory where the underwater drone was discovered is still part of the exclusive economic zone or ECC of the Philippines.
He said he was informed by a US Navy official that what they were doing was part of military information gathering of oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature and sound speed.
According to Lorenzana, he was somehow convinced by the explanation of the US Navy official whom he did not identify.
He, however, said the Philippine government was worried about implications of the drone’s discovery if the situation worsens between the US and China.
“We are very concerned if there will be miscalculation on the part of the two superpowers, where we might be affected since the proximity is only around 15 miles, where our environment will be disturbed too. Hence, they must settle theirdifferences amicably and diplomatically,” Lorenzana added.
He admitted that the Philippine government is not equipped to monitor underwater activities of the US or China but he said he will still try to inform these countries to advise their Philippine counterparts about their maritime activities except the free passage of their water vehicles.
“We have no way to find out what exactly they [US] are doing there, we allow them to pass, even China is also doing something there, we will try to ask them to inform us of any other activity except innocent passage,” Lorenzana said.