By Wilnard Bacelonia

(Photo courtesy of PCG)

MANILA – The country should focus on strengthening its defense posture and readiness instead of retaliating against China for its aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

Senator Francis Tolentino on Friday also suggested strengthening the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program and for criminology students to undergo military training.

“Sa akin, palakasin natin ang ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program. Lahat ng criminology students undergo military training, etc. So, palakasin natin ang sarili natin, palakasin natin ‘yung navy, ang coast guard, ang PNP Maritime Group (In my opinion, let’s strengthen the ROTC program. All criminology students undergo military training, etc. So, let’s strengthen ourselves, let’s strengthen the navy, the [Philippine] Coast Guard, the Philippine National Police Maritime Group),” Tolentino said during an interview via Zoom.

“If we are going to pivot to something that drastic, siguro dapat may presidential approval din ‘yan para nang sa ganoon ay alam din natin ‘yung (maybe there should be a presidential approval so that we will also know the) diplomatic responses and consequences,” he added.

Despite repeated attacks, National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea spokesperson Jay Tarriela earlier said the Philippine Coast Guard would continue to comply with the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to “continue to act peacefully and responsibly” in upholding the country’s sovereignty over its exclusive economic zones, including Bajo de Masinloc.

Tolentino said the Philippine maritime vessels are capable to fight back but would rather focus on the humanitarian mission in Bajo de Masinloc.

“Resupply lang ‘yun eh. Pinapakita natin sa buong mundo na ‘yung ating gawain ay mas makatao. Nagde-deliver tayo ng supply doon sa Panatag [Shoal] sa mga mangingisda para hindi na sila bumalik sa laot (That’s just a resupply. We are showing the whole world that what we do is more humane. We are delivering supplies there at Panatag [Shoal] to the fishermen so they don’t have to go back to the shore),” the senator said.

One way of asserting the country’s maritime domain, Tolentino said, is the Maritime Zones Act which is awaiting Marcos Jr.’s signature.

It aims to declare the rights and entitlements of the Philippines over its maritime zones, including the underwater features for the enjoyment and cultivation by Filipinos in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. (PNA)