President Rodrigo R. Duterte has expressed support for South Korea in the peaceful resolution of the Korean peninsula conflict.
In an interview with reporters in Busan, South Korea on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Duterte brought this up during his bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday.
“Sinabi niya, supported natin ang South Korea sa kanilang mga problema sa Korean peninsula (The President said the Philippines supports South Korea in resolving their problems within the Korean peninsula),” Lorenzana said. “Wala naman tayong magagawa, di naman tayo (We can only do so much because we are not a) nuclear power but the fact that we support the denuclearization of the peninsula is strong action from our side.”
He said the Philippine government would be willing to provide South Korea any form of assistance within its capacity.
“Kung ano ang hihingin ng Korea, siguro kung nagkaroon ng mga crisis diyan, saka lang tayo magre-react (Whatever Korea would ask from us, say if there is a crisis there, that’s when we react),” he added.
Lorenzana, however, said Duterte did not push for the resumption of talks between North Korea and the United States, a close ally of South Korea.
He said both the Philippines and South Korea have yet to consider holding joint military exercises as they have yet to forge a visiting forces agreement.
“Wala pa kasi (None yet because) to do that, you should have the visiting forces agreement. So wala naman tayong iniisip diyan. Di naman sila nagre-request, di naman tayo nagre-request so wala tayong joint exercises (We haven’t considered it yet. They haven’t requested one, we haven’t requested one, so we don’t have joint military exercises),” Lorenzana said.
Discussions on the South China Sea were not brought up during the bilateral meeting, he added.
North Korea’s desire to develop nuclear capabilities has raised tensions in the Korean peninsula, particularly on South Korea.
On April 27, 2018, Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged to formally end their long-standing conflict. However, there was a stalemate after the US asked North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons while Pyongyang wanted the US to be more flexible.
Meanwhile, Lorenzana was hopeful that the Philippines could conclude negotiations with South Korea by December on the purchase of two corvettes that cost a total of PHP25 billion.
He said if all works out, South Korea could start building the corvettes by January and deliver them to the Philippines within two years or before the end of Duterte’s term.
“Dalawang (Two) corvettes. Mas maliit ng konti, mas mabilis. Inaayos pa natin ang financing kasi nga wala tayong pera na pangbayad kaagad (Slightly smaller than frigates, but faster. We are still settling the financing because we are unable to pay immediately),” Lorenzana said. “If they can give us generous financing that we can pay, maybe in a period of three to five years. Later on, siguro gagawin nila yung corvettes natin (perhaps they would build our corvettes).”
Lorenzana said the two corvettes would be used to patrol the Celebes and Sulu Seas.
The Philippines, he said, has already procured two frigates from South Korea — the BRP Rizal and BRP Luna.
He said the BRP Rizal has been undergoing testing and could be delivered to the Philippines by April or May 2020 while the BRP Luna could be delivered by December 2020.
Duterte wanted to see the development of the BRP Rizal but had to stick to his schedule, he added. (PNA)