AFP brass shouldn’t talk foreign policy on WPS issue – Escudero | Inquirer News
Marcos asked to issue gag order

AFP brass shouldn’t talk foreign policy on WPS issue – Escudero

AFP brass shouldn’t talk foreign policy on WPS issue – Escudero

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero (PHOTO: Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should order the top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to refrain from speaking out on foreign policy to prevent an escalation of tensions with China, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said on Saturday.

In a radio interview, Escudero also cautioned the government’s economic managers against heeding suggestions to boycott products from China and ban contractors from that country.


The senator said Marcos should issue an order that only he can speak on the matter of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), adding that “it creates confusion when any general is interviewed as saying that [the water cannonade incident] is an act of war.”


On Aug. 5, China Coast Guard ships near Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, backed by militia vessels, fired water cannons at a Philippine Coast Guard ship and at a wooden boat operated by the Philippine Navy.

Four days later, AFP chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. told CNN Philippines in an interview that China’s actions “could be interpreted as an act of war already.”

Escudero, in response to that quote, told dwIZ that “the Philippines should always keep the doors open to talks with China and we should not let inflammatory statements in the political debate, which may only heighten the tension on either side and may not bring positive results toward the resolution of this dispute.”

Escudero also disagreed with Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s call for a boycott of Chinese products and a ban on its contractors.

Formation of militias

“Around 33 percent of our imports are from China, one-third of what we consume in the Philippines are sourced from China, while about 16 percent of our country’s exports [are] brought to China. Do we have a replacement for this loss if we stop trading with China?” he said.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) said it was backing a plan disclosed by Brawner for the formation of militias — or civilians tapped by the government to render military service — to beef up the Philippines’ presence in its own waters.


“FFW believes that a consolidated effort, driven by voluntary participation, can bolster the country’s maritime defenses and fortify the Philippines’ territorial sovereignty,” the group said in a statement on Saturday. It added that the “defense of the nation is a collective responsibility.”

FFW clarified, however, that while it supports the organization of militias, the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program being pushed in Congress was another matter. Ma. Victoria Garzon Bellosillo, president of FFW Women’s Network, said that “While the current Constitution establishes the foundation for service and protection, we respect the decisions of those who opt against joining the reserve force or engaging in military duties.”

The Senate is soon expected to pass a bill making ROTC mandatory after the House of Representatives passed a similar bill in December last year.

On Thursday, Brawner told reporters that the AFP had been planning to form militia units, but he said this still “depends on funds.”

‘Cannon fodder’

He said the militias would be made up mostly of reservists, but that fisherfolk could also be tapped as reserve forces.

But ACT Rep. France Castro said using fisherfolk as reservists “will put in danger the very people that the military has to protect … when the AFP should be the ones on the front lines.”

Castro, the House deputy minority leader, added that the formation of militias “may also be used to justify mandatory ROTC and use reservists as cannon fodder by the military.”

Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel said, “Our fishermen have long been toiling every day to make ends meet and it would be too much to even ask them to enter mandatory military training.”

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“Besides, [they] have long been waiting for state forces to do their job and defend our seas, so they can freely fish in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.


All eyes on China in PH’s next WPS supply mission — AFP spokesperson

AFP chief visits Palawan troops in wake of China’s water cannon attack

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TAGS: Armed Forces of the Philippines, Francis Escudero, maritime dispute, PH-China relations, West Philippines Sea

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