Retired generals of the Philippine Armed Forces (AFP) recently spoke up about how the current administration’s confusing response, or lack thereof, to persistent intrusions by Chinese vessels in areas of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), has only created a rift among Filipinos and weakened the country’s sovereignty defense.
China and the Philippines have been locked in a maritime dispute over the former claiming ownership of portions of the WPS, which were challenged through the International Permanent Court of Arbitration (ICA) at The Hague in 2013 and subsequently refuted in 2016.
However, China continuously ignores the ruling, sending vessels to occupy the WPS for the past months.
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte has refused to call out these affronts to the country’s sovereignty, citing a need to maintain relations with China and avoid conflict, contrasting Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana telling the Chinese ships to get out of the WPS.
Former AFP chief and senator Rodolfo Biazon had this to say about the current situation:
“First, we must have only one position even as we continue to defend our interest in the WPS. We must not have differing stands, and that’s what we’re hearing now, and we would all be confused and that would weaken us”.
Biazon further added that potential allies we could rally with to jointly oppose the actions of the Chinese government would likely be confused by the differing stances on the matter, in the country.
Recently, Japan and Australia expressed support for the country against China’s disregard for the Hague ruling.
Eliso Rio, former head of the AFP’s electronics and communications branch and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) secretary, echoed Biazon’s sentiments.
“As our nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, let us remember how we, Filipinos, more than a century ago, stood up to challenge a much stronger power in order to be freed from subjugation and bullying…” he stated.
Rio also underscored the threat of China’s actions to the country’s national security, then urged all Filipinos to “rally to our flag in assertion of our rights” over the WPS.