“As we had previously said, we are opposed to war — as we should be. But if threatened by the use of force, we should be ready to inflict, at the very least, a bloody nose on any attacker who is out to harm us,” former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
MANILA, Philippines — It is high time for concerned Filipinos in taking a united and vocal stand to urge the government to assert the country’s claim in the South China Sea, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
Del Rosario, who led the Philippines in a filing an arbitration case against China in 2013, urged all Filipinos to ask President Rodrigo Duterte to be more proactive and assertive in defending the country’s territory.
“Our government needs to listen to its people. Our northern neighbor needs to listen to the Filipino people. And finally, all our traditional partners and friends—who are waiting for a united voice—need to hear from us,” Del Rosario said in a statement issued Monday.
The statement comes days after China deploys bomber aircraft on one of its outposts in the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
READ: Palace: China not a threat but bomber in South China Sea a cause for concern
Chinese state-run People’s Daily reported that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has landed an H6-K bomber on Woody Island. The bomber, a licensed copy of a Cold War-era bomber, has a combat radius that could cover the entire South China Sea.
“As a reminder, the Philippine Constitution mandates our president to defend what is lawfully ours,” Del Rosario said, adding that the Duterte administration should revisit its foreign policy.
Del Rosario suggested that the Philippine government start relying on the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines to assert the country’s claim on the contested waterway.
“Is it, moreover, high time for our government to assert our rightful position by relying on the skill, courage and patriotism of our AFP who are capable of developing a credible minimum defense posture against any bully or aggressor, whoever that might be? If we believe this, let us say so,” he said.
While it is stated in the constitution that the Philippines renounces war as an instrument on national policy, Del Rosario said that the country should at least be “ready to inflict… a bloody nose on any attacker who is out to harm us.”The AFP would have this capacity if it would acquire the medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise Brahmos missiles from India. The Philippines had earlier expressed intent to acquire the missiles, with range of 300 to 500 kilometers, could cover the country’s entire exclusive economic zone.
“Should we then undertake to stand more firmly in defending what is ours thereby, upholding the future security of all our people? If we believe this, let us say so,” Del Rosario said.
“With the president’s thoughtful leadership and with the coordinated execution by our DFA and our AFP under Secretary Cayetano and Secretary Lorenzana, respectively, we can still do so,” he added.
Del Rosario also said that he agrees with the suggestion of acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio to urgently file a diplomatic protest against China’s actions in the region.
READ: Confronting China means trouble – Duterte
The former top diplomat, however, lamented that Duterte believes that those who speak out on what the government should do are “not prepared to sacrifice ourselves.”
“To support our president, to secure our nation and to ensure the future of all Filipinos, it must be believed that indeed there are those of us who are prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for our country, especially when called upon,” Del Rosario said.
Echoing the ASEAN’s statement earlier this year, Malacañang only reiterated the regional bloc’s call for non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that there was no need for the Philippines to issue an independent statement on the matter.
“The president does not see any immediate threat. As I said, we do not consider China to be a threat to our security right now because of our newfound friendship with China,” Roque told reporters Monday. / Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – May 21, 2018 – 6:15pm