The Philippines’ Commander-in-Chief cannot afford to send the wrong message – especially implied surrender or resignation – on our territorial disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Tuesday.
Lacson said this after President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday night that the Philippines may risk bloodshed and a no-win situation if it asserts its jurisdiction.
“He’s the leader of our country and he’s the commander-in-chief of our armed forces. He can think of anything and speak about anything except surrender. Remember, we have an arbitral ruling in our favor and it’s permanent although it’s unenforceable. There are so many things to think about except surrender. We cannot wave the white flag, so to speak,” Lacson said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
“I am not saying the President is actually raising the white flag but that’s the implication. If the officers and men of the AFP would take it that way, it could be disastrous to Philippine sovereignty,” he added.
Diplomatic protests may not be too helpful anymore as China continues to ignore the same. Further, while it is a standard document used to call the attention of the other party, China’s consistent attitude of taking for granted such action taken by the DFA reduces it to a mere point of information.
That said, perhaps China would not be so dismissive if we and our allies, both in the Asia-Pacific and the west, show we can band together to maintain a balance of power in the region, including the West Philippine Sea.
Filipinos should stand foursquare behind DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for making known his strong position in defending our country’s sovereign rights over the Whitsun Reef (Julian Felipe Reef) – and before that, the Mischief Reef, occupied by the Chinese during the period 1994-1995 and the Scarborough Shoal, which China cordoned off in 2012. All these have legal basis under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the existing arbitral ruling in our favor.
A sad reality is that while the ruling is permanent, it is unenforceable. The situation is made worse when our country’s leaders and foreign policy decision makers resort to acquiesce bordering on implied derogation of our sovereignty.
Even amid this pandemic, such “health crisis opportunism” being applied by China does not speak well of the assumed trust and goodwill between the two Asian allies. That said, our country is losing tens of billions of pesos a year in “stolen” aquatic resources, not to mention the wanton destruction of corals within our Exclusive Economic Zone that threatens our food security.
The fact that we are a militarily weak country that cannot match China’s military power should compel us to resort to establishing stronger alliances not only with other Asia-Pacific neighbors like Australia and Japan and the other ASEAN countries, but our long-standing western allies like the US and Europe.
Only through a clear message that the presence of “balance of power” in the West Philippine Sea can help us in this regard.
Filipinos from both sides of the political aisle should feel proud hearing the President express his strong and unequivocal position on the WPS issue. His statement should erase all doubts on where he stands.
More importantly, I hope that China heard the President’s message loud and clear.
First, just so it is clear where I’m coming from: I am not pro- or anti-American, as in actual fact, they took away my US visa a long time ago. Nor am I pro- or anti-Chinese since I have many friends in and out of Beijing.
That said, the President’s change of heart is a welcome development as far as defense and economic security of the country is concerned. The Philippines needs the Visiting Forces Agreement especially now that Chinese intrusions into our territory, particularly in the West Philippines Sea, have become commonplace.
The last thing that we should lose is the balance of power that the USA, among other allies like Australia and other ASEAN neighbors, can provide to suit our national interest and territorial integrity.
It is a no-brainer that we can’t stand on our own and protect ourselves from harassment coming from those intrusions.
The Filipino people are resilient and our soldiers are no different. We will survive, no doubt. We know how to improvise and we can adapt to crises the way we did many times before.
But in the meantime, we remain exposed to terrorist threats, both domestic and foreign, not to mention the continuing security threat in the West Philippine Sea posed by China, and even the need for timely humanitarian response and assistance that the US is capable of deploying during disasters, natural or man-made. Also affected by the VFA’s abrogation is the maintenance and repairs of military hardware, mostly air assets provided by the US under the AFP modernization program.
Exploring other options like inking similar defense treaties with other nations as posited by the AFP Chief of Staff is fine but the reality is, it doesn’t happen overnight. It will take a series of back-and-forth negotiations in pursuit of the concerned parties’ self and national interests before going through lengthy deliberations for ratification by the Senate.
While admittedly, the VFA is not perfect for the Philippines as far as equitability is concerned, the timing and reasons for its abrogation are way off the mark.
The thing is, it is not the smartest move of the President to expose ourselves naked first before looking for other options for cover.
Like it or not, bad or good, nothing much can be done now but do a 180-day countdown upon receipt of the notice by Washington. What is certain is that the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty will now be reduced to a mere paper treaty as far as the US is concerned.
Having said that, there’s no more intelligence information sharing in our fight against domestic and foreign terrorist acts, no more US military aid and financing that accounts for a good 52% of what they extend to the whole Asia-Pacific region.
That may not include other intangible economic benefits and security from external threats in the West Philippine Sea, as well as humanitarian aid in times of disasters, epidemics and other crises.
In an interview on DZBB/GNTV, Sen. Lacson answered questions on:
– national dignity factor in UN-HRC resolution on killings
– ‘double standard’ in UN, WPS issues?
– reported claim that VP Robredo’s stand on UN-HRC resolution is a ground for impeachment