DEFENSE Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana on Friday expressed his annoyance over the continuous presence of Chinese warships in Philippine waters.

“Wala naman sila ginagawang masama na umaatake sa atin or whatever. Nakakainis lang dahil tubig natin at warships sila. Buti sana kung civilian, [pero] pinapatay pa nila yung identification system, so nakakainis lang (They are doing nothing wrong like attacking us or whatever. It’s just annoying because it is our water and their warships. It would be better if they were civilian, [but] they’re still turnign off the identification system, so it’s just annoying),” said Mr. Lorenzana during a chance interview with reporters at Camp Aguinaldo on Friday, Aug. 16.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier said that at least five Chinese warships had passed through the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi province in southern Philippines without notifying Philippine authorities.

He noted that the Philippine Navy allows the passage of foreign vessels along the Sibutu Strait as long as their automatic identification system is turned on.

“For as long as they do not shut off their AIS they can pass through without informing [us] because we allow passage there because it is international passageway,” said Mr. Lorenzana.

Mr. Lorenzana said that he is hoping that this matter will be discussed during President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s upcoming trip to China later this month.

“Sana ma-mention ito para matapos, irritant na kasi ito ngayon e (I hope this is mentioned so it can be finished, as it is an irritant now),” said the Defense chief.

For his part, AFP chief Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal, Jr. said that they are doing their best to prevent any clashes between Philippine and Chinese ships.

“Naano naman natin ito, na itong mga bagay na ito to be able to prevent ’yung sinasabi nga ’yung, unintended. Halimbawa magkaroon ng unnecessary confrontations, mas maganda kung napagu-usapan ’yung mga coordinations like these at nagpapaalam para masiguro natin na hindi naman nava-violate ang ating territory (we consider these things to be able to prevent the unintended. For example, if there are unnecessary confrontations, it is best to discuss coordination like these and inform them so we can make sure our territory is not violated.),” said Mr. Madrigal in a chance interview with reporters.

He also called for respect of Philippine territory.

“Hindi lamang naman ’yung threat, kasama dyan ’yung respeto sa ating teritoryo, at respeto sa atin bilang kapwa bansa (It is not just the threat, included in this the the respect for our territory, and respect for use as a fellow nation) and all these had to be agreed through, of course, diplomatic arrangements,” said Mr. Madrigal.

On Thursday, Malacañang acknowledged that China is violating international law with the unauthorized entry of its warships into Philippine waters

Presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said that he would discuss the issue with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, who has invited him to dinner.

The United Nations tribunal in July 2016 ruled that China’s efforts to assert control over the South China Sea exceeded the law, rejecting its shared claims with Taiwan to more than 80% of the waterway.

China rejected the decision of the international court, and has continued with its island-building activities in areas also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras