By Filane Mikee Cervantes

West Philippine Sea (File photo)

MANILA – A lawmaker on Tuesday backed the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ strategic initiative to fortify the habitability of islands in the West Philippine Sea, which is crucial to uphold the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Lanao del Sur Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong said the development plans, particularly focusing on islands such as Pag-asa and the Ayungin Shoal, highlight the government’s firm commitment to assert the country’s rightful claims in the West Philippine Sea.

“As we navigate heightened tensions and territorial disputes with China, it becomes imperative that we bolster our presence in the region to safeguard our cherished sovereignty,” Adiong said.

He particularly commended the decision to provide a desalination machine for the troops stationed on the deliberately grounded warship at Ayungin Shoal, “symbolizing our steadfast assertion of sovereignty”.

He also noted that the broader military modernization plans, including the acquisition of ships, radars, and aircraft, align seamlessly with the government’s shift in focus from internal defense to territorial security.

“In confronting complex geopolitical challenges, it is essential to strengthen our military capabilities, a necessity emphasized by the AFP’s top mandate of protecting and defending our nation,” he said.

“I stand unwaveringly behind the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their relentless pursuit of securing our national interests, reinforcing our support to the troops, upholding our sovereignty, and fostering peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

According to Octa Research’s Tugon ng Masa national survey results released on Tuesday, around 60 percent of adult Filipinos support the Marcos administration’s approach in handling the territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.

The approval percentage saw a 2-point increase from the 58 percent recorded in the October 2023 survey.

The pollster said the highest agreement was seen in Metro Manila at 67 percent, while the lowest recorded rating was in Mindanao at 52 percent. Mindanao.

In terms of socioeconomic classes, agreement ratings were highest among Filipinos belonging to Class D at 64 percent and lowest among Class E at 51 percent.

The survey was conducted from Dec. 10 to Dec. 14, 2023, using face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adult respondents.

It had a ±3 margin of error for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. (PNA)