Esperon: China's challenge on aircraft carrying Defense chief 'normal'

Ruth Abbey Gita

NATIONAL Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Friday that Chinese Coast Guard's challenge on a military aircraft carrying Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and military officials to Pagasa Island was a standard move by China.

"That normally happens when you get to an area where there are overlaps of territory. There will be challenges," Esperon told reporters at the sideline of President Rodrigo Duterte's tour of Russian warship Varyag in Manila.

Lorenzana confirmed to media on Friday that the Pagasa-bound aircraft was challenged by China four times before it reached its destination.

"Challenge is something that is not very positive. But a challenge could be just to identify yourself. But it could also mean you're challenging because you think that's your territory," Esperon said.

Esperon said China's challenge is something the government "mind[s] and respond[s] appropriately."

Lorenzana visit in Pagasa Island came after the recent pronouncement of Duterte that he had ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to build military structures and raise national flag in the island.

Duterte had also said that he was mulling to personally go to the island on Independence Day, June 12, to raise the Philippine flag but later announced that he would not push through with his plan, with respect to China's request.

Pagasa Island or Thitu, the second largest of the Spratly chain, is being claimed by China as its own. The island serves as town center of the Kalayaan, Palawan. (SunStar Philippines)