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Defense chief says unveiling of missiles on Xi’s arrival ‘coincidental’

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A MULTI-purpose attack craft (MPAC MKIII) fires a spike extended range missile during a live fire exercise at the waters off Lamao Point, Bataan on Nov. 21. — PHILSTAR/KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said yesterday’s unveiling of the country’s first missile system was not intentionally scheduled to coincide with the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Coincidental lang ‘yan (Just coincidental),” Mr. Lorenza told reporters during the live test firing activity of the Philippine missiles at the waters off Lamao Point, Bataan on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

“Walang balak tungkol du’n (There’s no plan on that). In fact, this was scheduled with the President long time ago, pero laging napo-postpone (but it was repeatedly postponed),” he said, adding that they simply took advantage of the good weather condition.

The Chinese leader made his first state visit in the country on Nov. 20-21 amid warming relations pursued by President Rodrigo R. Duterte despite the dispute over claims on the West Philippine Sea.

Mr. Lorenzana said the unveiling of Spike Extended Range missiles, which were acquired from Israel, only aims to show the improvement of the Navy.

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“[It only shows] that our navy is improving, we are now at par with what’s happening in the neighborhood… kung makikita natin sa mga kapitbahay natin, tayo na lang nahuhuli talaga (If we look at our neighboring countries, we are left behind),” said the Defense chief.

Philippine Navy Flag Officer-in-Command Robert A. Empedrad, for his part, said they cannot use the new missiles and other defense weapons at the disputed West Philippine Sea because the corresponding carrier vessels are not big enough.

“We need big ships to be able to patrol the West Philippine Sea. But internally, if there is a threat to our wellbeing as a nation, we can use these… (like) when a foreign ship comes in (illegally),” said Mr. Empedrad, speaking in mixed Filipino and English.

He added, “We have a doctrine when to fire the missile because it’s P10 million worth. We cannot target a small boat with a missile worth P10 million. That would be a waste.” — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras

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