(MENAFN - Gulf Times) The West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea and terrorism are the challenges facing the Department of National Defence (DND) in 2019, its Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.
Lorenzana cited the need for the Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea to be drafted by all claimants in three years, which is the remainder of President Rodrigo Duterte's term in office. Aside from the Philippines, other claimants are Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and China.
'We have been doing it since 2012, so, it's too long already and hopefully, we can have a workable or acceptable Code of Conduct in the sea in three years-time, Lorenzana told reporters in a news conference at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City after the traditional New Year's call.
Lorenzana in December said that China was delaying the progress on the Code of Conduct. Duterte has taken a more diplomatic approach to the dispute, especially with China, saying that the Philippines cannot afford to go to war with the communist state.
'We are hoping that the Code of Conduct will be finished soon because the timeframe given by the Chinese was in three years. I said, ‘Why so long?' he said.
As for terrorism, Lorenzana said the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute group has remnants in the area, who were conniving with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
'Their troops are decreasing but still, they are a problem. We want the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to succeed. This is to have a new leadership in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and hopefully, they can help us police the area so that we can eradicate once and for all the terrorists such as the Daulah Islamuyag, BIFF, Abu Sayyaf in that area, Lorenzana said.
He also said that there were a 'few foreign terrorists entering the country's backdoor, citing reports from the MILF.