(File Photo)

Presidential contender and incumbent vice president Leni Robredo said Thursday that the recent harassment of Philippine supply boats by Chinese Coast Guard vessels in Ayungin Shoal underscored the necessity for a tougher position in asserting the country’s sovereignty to safeguard Filipino interests in the West Philippine Sea.

“Na-harass na naman ang ating resupply vessels sa Ayungin Shoal. Hindi puwedeng maliitin ang mga Pilipino nang ganito. Ang panalo natin sa arbitral ruling ang sandalan natin para tuloy-tuloy natin [na] ma-protektahan kung ano ang atin,” Robredo said in a press statement released by her office.

On November 16, two Philippine boats on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal were blocked and water-cannoned by Chinese Coast Guard vessels, according to the government. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. stated the Philippines had already expressed its “outrage, condemnation, and protest” of the occurrence to Beijing.

Robredo and her running companion, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, held a highly in-depth discussion with retired military generals on significant elements of national security, building on prior security briefings with the AFP.

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This covered governance issues, defense spending, internal and external security concerns, civil-military relations in a democratic society, as well as non-traditional concerns such as climate change, disaster risk reduction and management, pandemic response, cybersecurity, and disinformation.

The press statement said retired AFP top brass present included former AFP chiefs of staffs generals Eduardo Oban and Hernando Iriberri; former Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Alexander Pama; former vice chief of staff Lt. Gen Salvador Mison Jr.; former Navy Vice Commander Rear Admiral Rommel Jude Ong; former AFP Internal Auditor and Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan; and Maj. Gen. Arnold Mancita PAF. There were other retired generals who were unable to attend the meeting due to prior commitments.

Robredo conveyed her appreciation to the retired generals for their valuable input and suggestions during the in-person meeting held at her office in Quezon City.

The three-hour discussion is considered the start of a continuing consultation process, which will allow the retired generals to assist the Vice President in crafting a responsive national security agenda that balances the need to defend the state and protect the interests and welfare of the people.

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