Lorenzana draws flak for defending government stance on China's aggression

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 13) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is drawing flak for his recent statements defending the government's handling of Beijing's aggressive moves in the South China Sea.

In a change from his usual tone, the Defense Secretary recently fended off criticisms that the Duterte administration was doing nothing to stop Chinese moves in the contested area .

"We have managed it very well through the President's leadership," Lorenzana said, adding that it was the previous administration that had mismanaged the Philippines' relationship with China.

Recently, the administration had been criticized after reports came out that members of the Chinese coast guard were forcefully taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal.

Opposition lawmaker Gary Alejano, a retired marine officer, said that there was growing frustration in the military over how President Rodrigo Duterte dealt with Beijing and the contested territories in the South China Sea.

Alejano stood by his statement that Duterte had ordered the military to limit, if not stop patrolling the West Philippine Sea. Lorenzana had previously denied these allegations.

"Kung walang order, walang support, [If there was no order, no support].  How will the Armed Forces do that?," Alejano said. "They cannot go against the direction of the President.  The President is the Commander-in-Chief."

Lorenzana downplayed reports of demoralization in the APF, but a number of Facebook accounts believed to have been created by or followed by members of the military have been criticial of the government's response -- or lack of it -- to China's continued militarization and aggressive acts in contested waters.

Defense analyst Jose Antonio Custodio said that Facebook was the best gauge of the AFP's sentiments.

He added that the Philippine Coast Guard should be put in the frontline of securing the country's maritime borders because its civilian nature can help de-escalate sea confrontation.

"And if anybody gives an excuse that the coast guard can't be used because there are no ships, then what are all these ships from Japan doing?," Custodio said, referring to the ships the Philippines bought from Japan for the Coast Guard.

Whether it's the Coast Guard or any other entity, critics want the country's flag to be flown over the West Philippine Sea.