Solon says PH allowing US to go on war footing; Defense chief says China is aggressor
MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. has countered a lawmaker’s claims that the Philippine government is allowing the United States (US) to go on a war footing against China, saying that the Asian superpower is the one who has made aggressive actions.
During the deliberations of the Department of National Defense (DND) proposed 2024 budget worth P234 billion on Thursday, Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel asked Teodoro why is US making dangerous moves when Filipino officials have been pushing for peaceful resolutions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute.
Manuel said that the US is getting involved in the country’s affairs even if it is not a party to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or countries which are geographically close to the disputed region.
“Majority of Filipinos want to defend the [WPS] through diplomacy or peaceful means, not through war mongering in the Asia-Pacific or West Philippine Sea region. Also, madam chair, Presidential Envoy to China Teddy Boy Locsin Jr. said the Philippines has no plans of going to war with China, but why do we allow the US to go on a seeming war footing at the WPS?” Manuel asked in Filipino.
“Isn’t that dangerous for us and other Filipinos?” he added.
Teodoro responded by saying that it is China, not the US, which water-cannoned Philippine vessels on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre.
“That is not my view of things. Who launched the water cannon? Is it US or China? Who is on a war footing? Is it us or them? For me, we are very far from that and I do not want a war. But diplomacy, if not backed by strength in having the capability to defend our sovereignty, democracy will have no use,” Teodoro warned.
“Especially to a determined country like China which has the goal of embracing the whole South China Sea,” he added.
But Manuel maintained his stand that the Philippines should not be made to choose between China and the US, as both countries are working for their own agenda.
“Madam chair, we think we should not choose which country we want to stop its hegemonic actions. Because while China does that, undeniably, the United States has been doing this for decades in different regions of our planet,” the lawmaker claimed.
Teodoro maintained that the US has not done that to the Philippines, but Manuel countered by saying that the two countries had a Bilateral Security Guidance which allegedly allows the US to meddle in local affairs.
“I think the Bilateral Security Guidance itself shows that the US can meddle in the country’s affairs, but we cannot do that so it is not even bilateral or fair,” Manuel said.
The DND chief then requested Manuel where the said guideline is available and what specific document it is. While Manuel was talking, Teodoro was seen at the livestream of the House committee on appropriations talking with military officials about the presence of such a document.
“Madam chair, with due indulgence, may I request the source of the Bilateral Security Guideline so we can review where it comes from and what document it is?” Teodoro asked.
“Madam Chair, this was one of the outputs of the President’s visit to the US. And this is also anchored on the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement), with EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement), and the MDT (Mutual Defense Treaty). So it’s a major document, which I hope that DND should have well studied because it is one deal that strengthens the ‘alliance’ with the US,” Manuel replied.
“Thank you, your honor, we will find out the existence of that document and we will review it,” Teodoro added.
While President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has maintained that his administration will be “a friend to all and an enemy to none”, observers have noticed that the administration has mended ties with the US — after years of strained relationship under former president Rodrigo Duterte’s regime.
Observers and critics said that proof of the supposed pivot is the establishment of four new additional sites in the country for the Edca between the Philippines and the US.
The Philippines and China also figured in a recent issue after the Chinese Coast Guard water-cannoned vessels which attempted to bring supplies to soldiers stationed at BRP Sierra Madre, a ship beached at the Ayungin shoal.
The Ayungin shoal is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
In response to the event, China claimed that a former administration promised to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin, but the promise has not been acted upon. Marcos then said that he has not made that agreement, and if such a deal exists, it has already been terminated. With reports from Juan Miguel Talens, trainee