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‘Inferior’ Navy will ‘fight to last man’ for Spratlys

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:12:00 04/02/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy said it would “fight to the last sailor and Marine” to defend the country’s claim to the disputed Spratly Islands, rejecting allegations it would give up the reportedly oil-rich islands without a fight.

Rear Admiral Amable Tolentino, Navy vice commander, issued the statement in reaction to criticisms of his earlier statement that diplomacy is better than going to war over the Spratlys, since the Philippine Navy lacks firepower.

Nevertheless Tolentino said it is the “bitter truth” that the Navy is “inferior” to those of other Spratlys claimants and other countries.

Still, Tolentino said, “Let the people know that our Navy will support every peaceful resolution of the territorial issue with other claimant countries, but is also ready to fight to the last sailors and Marines in defending the territorial integrity of our nation.”

“That is our sworn duty, that is our mandate, that which we are willing to die for,” Tolentino said.

In an interview with reporters at Navy headquarters in Manila, Tolentino stressed he never said that the Navy would not defend the country’s interests in the Spratlys.

“While having admitted that ours is a relatively inferior Navy compared to other claimant countries’ navies, I never said that the Philippine Navy would not put up a fight to defend the territorial integrity of our country when faced with [the] external aggression of a mightier navy,” Tolentino said in the statement.

“My statement of ‘inferior navy’ was merely capability-based which, sad to say, is the bitter truth. While other countries enjoy a modern navy that has newer ships and over-the-horizon scanning and targeting system[s], ours remain far behind,” he said.

Tolentino issued the statement amid the controversy generated by the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), a tripartite agreement among the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

The political opposition claims the Philippine government’s claim on the Spratlys has been jeopardized by its entering into the JMSU, allegedly in exchange for a multi-million-dollar loan package from China.

The Spratlys is being claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

Last week, Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., visited Pag-asa Island to “reinforce” the country’s claim on the islands.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-04-02T07:39:30+00:00UTC04bUTCWed, 02 Apr 2008 07:39:30 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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