MANILA, Philippines – To defend our national territory and our sovereignty – that is the only option for the country when it comes to maritime disputes in the West Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III said Monday.
“I subscribed to this oath when I assumed office. I have to defend national territory and our sovereignty,” Aquino said at the sidelines of the Philippine National Police Academy graduation in Cavite.
The President referred to Article 2, Section 7 of the Philippine Constitution, which states, “The state shall pursue an independent foreign policy and in its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.”
Aquino was replying to a question on whether China will push through with its threat that bilateral relations between the two countries will be affected if the Philippines over the filing of its legal memorandum before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
On Sunday, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced that the Philippines filed a 4,000-page memorial detailing the country’s claims on parts of the West Philippine Sea.
“We are not here to challenge China, to provoke them into any action, but I do believe that they should recognize we have the right to defend our own interests,” Aquino said.
He said he cannot impose on the Chinese government but that it should think of how things would be if roles were reversed.
“[Imagine] they are the smaller country; they are the less military capable; they have interests. Will they willingly just forego their interests here? I don’t think so,” Aquino said.