PH, other nations urged to boost military strength
Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday said the Philippines and other concerned nations should consider beefing up their military capability to deter China’s expansion in the South China Sea.
Speaking in a forum of think tanks held ahead of next week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit, Del Rosario said the Philippines had done its part to ensure the “peaceful settlement” of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea by seeking arbitration in an international tribunal.
But he said China “has used a creeping force to ensure its control of the vital waterways on which we all depend,” then went on to raise the alternative military approach.
Rule of law
“In our view, China should consider if, in achieving its present military or economic objectives, it will continue to have a measure of respect from its neighbors. In my view, this is only possible if China pursues its aims within the framework of international law,” Del Rosario said at the forum organized by Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute.
“Yet, if trying to get everyone to adhere to the rule of law does not work, one other alternative is an approach characterized by a strategic buildup of defense capabilities for deterrence purposes,” he said.
He said some experts had suggested “that the countries of the region should thoughtfully ramp up their defense transfers and invest in select military platforms as a matter of necessity.”
“Although a cycle of reactive militarization will surely raise the stakes and the tension, this may still be a prudent path,” Del Rosario said, warning that “smaller states” like the Philippines could not afford to capitulate to China’s expansion in the South China Sea.
“The least desirable option is sheer capitulation: for us, smaller states especially, to give in and to lose our sovereign equality and all that it signifies. This is not a win-win solution, only a guarantee that we bequeath our grievances to our children. This option is totally unsatisfactory,” he said.
Del Rosario said his speech was addressed to leaders of the Philippines, other Asean countries, China, the United States and “other concerned nations.”
President Rodrigo Duterte will play host to 21 world leaders who will attend the Asean Summit and related meetings in Manila from Nov. 12 to 14.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
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