‘Our territory is our territory’: Teodoro pivots DND’s focus to external defense
MANILA, Philippines — Heeding President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s pronouncements, Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro on Wednesday said his agency would shift its focus from internal defense to external defense.
“National defense should transition — without sacrificing the gains in internal security — to external defense,” Teodoro said in his first press briefing at the Department of National Defense (DND) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
In March, Marcos urged military strategy adjustment for an uncertain external security environment as the fight against communism nears its end. Teodoro pledged to support the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the “constitution of the seas.”
“Our territory is our territory, and Unclos cannot be changed by the passage of time, nor changes in administration,” he pointed out.
The Philippines, under the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III in 2013, challenged before the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) Beijing’s claim that it owned more than 80 percent of the entire South China Sea through its nine-dash line concept, which overlaps with the Philippines 200-nautical mile EEZ mandated by Unclos.
In 2016, the PCA invalidated China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea.
The tribunal ruled that China’s claim had no basis in international law and violated the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea, the waters within the country’s 370-kilometer EEZ in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, according to Teodoro, Marcos also sought to strengthen the country’s civil defense.
“The president would like to strengthen the Office of Civil Defense and so that it is not merely a military focus but a national civil defense focus,” Teodoro said. “The safety and security of all our people, whether it be from an armed attack, whether it be from terrorism or whether it be from a pandemic, the first and only marching order is the safety and security of our people.”