PHL still pursuing code of conduct in South China Sea

THE PHILIPPINE government is still pursuing the early completion of the code of conduct in the South China Sea despite delays in negotiations due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We are likewise pursuing the early conclusion of an effective and substantive code of conduct in the South China Sea by all the claimant states,” Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said at an online briefing on Wednesday. Before the global health crisis, China and southeast Asian nations were targeting to complete the sea code meant to  ease tensions in maritime disputes by 2021. Mr. Lorenzana said during the pre-State of the Nation Address forum that the government, through bilateral and multilateral engagement, helped lower the tension in the region, but has also taken steps agains incursions in the West Philippine Sea. “The Philippines has taken diplomatic actions against China for activities against our national sovereignty. This is on top of our enhanced surveillance enforcement security and development capabilities in the area,” he said.  The Department of National Defense has undertaken infrastructure upgrades in Pag-asa island, such as a ship beaching ramp and a sheltered port for fishermen. Also underway are a runway and radio station project, among other facilities. The country has also acquired military assets, such as the BRP Jose Rizal, the Navy’s first brand new frigate as part of the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  Combat support aircraft will also be delivered this year for the Philippines Air Force. Further, the government has launched marine exploration, funding an all Filipino marine science research in the Philippine Rise. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Solon says Charter change should be done this year or it will be too late

ALBAY REPRESENTATIVE Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda, who supports some of the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution, said changes should be tackled this year or it will “too late.” “Next year is too late. This is the last year to tackle it. Next year its really too late,” he said in an online forum on Wednesday. Mr. Salceda said he supports the proposed economic provisions such as easing restrictions on foreign investments, and the increase in the term of office of local government officials. The committee on constitutional amendments, led by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez, will be meeting within two weeks after session opens on July 27 to discuss the proposal. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Defense chief says strides made in reform program for ex-NPAs

DEFENSE SECRETARY Delfin N. Lorenzana said strides have been made in the government’s anti-insurgency program for the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed group of the communist movement, after ending peace talks with its lead party. President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who reopened negotiations with the communist umbrella group National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Communist Party of the Philippines at the start of his term, canceled the talks in 2017, citing their refusal to first sign a ceasefire agreement. He later created a multi-sector task force for localized peace talks with the NPA on the ground. Mr. Lorenza said the task force’s Local Integration Program has attracted “thousands” of NPA members to lay down their arms and avail of livelihood training and other assistance from the government. — Gillian M. Cortez