DFA alarmed over hike in China military budget
MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is concerned about the recent increase in China’s military budget, the biggest in three years.
Speaking after inaugurating a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) satellite office at Ali Mall in Araneta Center, Quezon City, Del Rosario said China must clarify the increased military budget in light of recent developments in the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
“Given, however, China’s assertive mode as viewed by the international community, a clarification of its significant increase in its military spending would be helpful,” he said.
Del Rosario, however, said a country has the prerogative to determine its own military spending.
“In the context of their being in an assertive mode, it’s something to be concerned about,” he said. Vice President Jejomar Binay told Vietnamese Ambassador Truong Trieu Duong that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should take a “solid stand” on each member’s territorial disputes with China.
The two talked during Duong’s courtesy call at the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in the Coconut Palace.
Duong expressed concern over China’s increasing aggression in pressing its territorial claims.
The Chinese coast guard’s use of water cannons on Filipino fishermen could also “most likely” happen to Vietnamese fishermen, he added.
Duong urged Binay to reject China’s claims.
“Malaysia is keen to join us,” he said.
Binay expressed hope for greater relations between the Philippines and Vietnam, particularly in trade and investment.
“As long as we are solid in ASEAN, we have a strong case on our territorial claims,” he said. The Philippines and Vietnam previously affirmed their close consultations on maritime issues, including the West Philippine Sea, during the 7th Meeting of the Philippines-Vietnam Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation in August last year.
Emergency plan vs Chinese invasion
Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas called yesterday on the government to map out a national emergency plan in case China seizes Philippine-claimed territories in the West Philippine Sea.
“With Russia’s intrusion in the Crimea, China could be emboldened to do same in the South China Sea, and there is nothing the Philippines can do if and when the world’s biggest army would decide to take over disputed islands, including Kalayaan and the Bajo de Masinloc, by force,” he said.
Treñas said the possibility of actual invasion on major Philippine-claimed islands and a full-blown armed conflict should not be completely discounted.
“The crisis in Ukraine could become a trigger point for a bigger conflict, and while we don’t want to sound like an alarmist, there is no harm if we prepare our people on what to do in the event of a full blown armed conflict,” he said.
Treñas said the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) should have community-based “disaster response” units to be tapped during emergency situations, including the possibility of mass evacuation.
The Armed Forces Reserve Command should have a solid inventory and adequate training for reserve forces so they can be easily mobilized when the need arises, he added.
Treñas said a majority of the barangays are not equipped with a public address system crucial during emergencies despite constant typhoons and other calamities.
“Our nation is weak not only because our armed forces is ill-equipped, but also because our people have become too complacent that we have forgotten that we have a duty to defend our sovereignty,” he said.
Treñas said the NDRRMC and the Armed Forces should start drills and exercises to upgrade the level of preparedness during emergencies, including the possibility of an armed conflict with another state.
“If we are prepared, no amount of typhoon, earthquake or even foreign invasion can bring us down,” he said.
“We can definitely rise up and fight back to defend our nation.”
Fishermen want apology from China
Fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) has urged the Chinese government to apologize for bombarding Filipino fisherman with water in Panatag Shoal last Jan. 27.
In a statement, Pamalakaya vice chairman Salvador France said the apology must be directed to and received by fisherfolk organizations, not the government.
“Beijing should channel its public apology to fisherfolk of Zambales and other small fishermen associations and not to the Manila government which is a reactionary appendage of Washington DC. At the same time, China should pull out all its marine vessels in Panatag Shoal in full recognition of the Filipino territorial rights and sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal,” he said.
France said an apology from China and a pullout of Chinese vessels in Panatag will make way for a conducive venue to discuss issues surrounding the South China Sea between the Philippines and China and among other claimant nations.
“Beijing’s water cannon policy is politically annoying and blatantly immoral, but what worries us more is the conscious effort of President Aquino and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to exploit the situation to justify the ever increasing presence of US troops and put premium to the grand return of American military bases in the country, which for us is extremely dangerous and totally inimical to Philippine sovereignty,” he said. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Paolo Romero, Michelle Zoleta, Alexis Romero