Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said Philippine air surveillance in the West Philippine (South China) Sea had a 30-percent increase in 2019.
In his speech during the virtual celebration of the Defense department’s 81st anniversary, Lorenzana attributed the increase to the military’s acquisition of new equipment.
Without going into details, he said the military’s air domain coverage increased from 27 percent to 57 percent.
“This was due to our air defense surveillance radars, surveillance aircraft and long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles,” Lorenzana said.
The surveillance intensified despite the softened stance towards the dispute and the continued presence of Chinese vessels in Philippine-owned territories in the Kalayaan Island Group.
He said the coronavirus pandemic had not stopped the military from fulfilling “strategic priorities,” that apparently includes the West Philippine Sea.
“[Our priorities fulfilled] include securing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state promoting internal stability attaining the highest standard capability and preparedness on disasters to sustaining operations in support to global peace and security and pursing good government,” he said.
Among the gains he cited was the vital infrastructures built in Kalayaan (Spratly Group of Islands), the Batanes Group of Islands, Sulu Sea, Philippine Rise.
The Armed Forces had also beefed up its presence in Fuga Island, Lorenzana said, in compliance with the instructions of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Fuga Island was in the headlines because of the possibility of investments coming from state-owned companies in China.
Lorenzana also said the military reached a milestone after the Philippine Navy received new ships, including the Pohang-class corvette BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) and brand new missile armed frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), both coming from South Korea.
He earlier said the military expects an air defense radar system from Japan.
He also hinted at possible arms procurement negotiations with non-traditional partners like Israel, Jordan, Sri Lanka and Croatia.