NTF probing reports of missing Filipino fishermen in WPS

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MANILA – National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) chairperson Hermogenes Esperon Jr. stated that they will investigate the allegations remarked by presidential aspirant Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson that some Filipino fishermen went missing in these waters.

Mag-verify lang ako kasi wala syang sinasabing dates (I will verify as he did not give any dates),” Esperon, who is also National Security Adviser, added in an interview with reporters Monday night.

When asked if he had received such reports much earlier, Esperon replied he couldn’t be certain because there wasn’t anything concrete to work with.

“So ang magagawa ko lang (what I could do now) is to check also, I’ll check, as of now, wala sa fingertips ko yan eh (there is nothing yet in my fingertips),” Esperon said.

According to Defense Secretary Lorenzana, he has not heard anything about the incident yet.

“No, I don’t (have information). I’ll check,” he said when sought for comment.

Lacson stated during his campaign sortie in Quezon on Monday that they have received information that some Filipino fishermen are now missing after being rammed by Chinese Coast Guard ships while fishing in the WPS.

He further said that he obtained this report from fish brokers who were once approached by one of the families of the missing fishermen.

The presidential aspirant said they are also validating this report.

Lacson stated that as this situation progressed, he aims to provide the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with increased access to digital and electronic technology.

Lacson disclosed this plan during a public forum held at St. Anne College Lucena, Inc., where he and running mate Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III campaigned with four of their senatorial candidates and several local government leaders.

When a concerned citizen from Quezon province raised the WPS issue and inquired how Lacson intended to address the area’s ongoing maritime conflict if elected as the 17th President, the topic of strengthening the AFP’s defensive capability was discussed.

Lacson reaffirmed his foreign policy objective of achieving a “balance of power” in the region.

This entails developing stronger alliances with military powerhouses in addition to fully implementing Republic Act 10349, also known as the Revised AFP Modernization Act, which has a PHP75 billion funding.

However, the presidential candidate said that unlike in previous administrations where the Philippine Army gets the lion’s share of the AFP budget, he aims to allocate more funds to the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Air Force this time.

“So, i-strengthen natin ‘yung ating Philippine Navy, ang ating Philippine Air Force. Bukod sa archipelagic country tayo ay dapat medyo bawasan na natin ‘yung infantry. Idagdag natin ‘yung budget para sa air force at saka sa navy para makatapat man lang tayo (So, we will strengthen our Philippine Navy and our Philippine Air Force. Considering that we are an archipelagic country, I think we should reduce our need for infantries. We would rather increase the budget for our air force and the navy, so we can catch up at least),” he added in a statement.

He stated that boosting the Philippines’ defensive capability is one of his top priorities in light of the recent events in Ukraine, in which Russia launched a full-scale invasion.

Lacson authored and sponsored the Revised AFP Modernization Act, which was passed by the 15th Congress. He is also the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation’s incumbent chairperson. 

House committees to hold hearings during break

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Spread the loveMANILA – The House of Representatives has authorized for its committees to conduct hearings during the five-week congressional break, extending until late April.