ARMED Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. wants at least one percent of next year’s national budget to be allocated for defense spending even as he admitted that the country’s military capabilities are no-match against the Chinese.
Catapang made the admission amid reports on China’s ongoing reclamations in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)
Apparently reacting to the apparent military activities in contested waters, he said, “I hope this is just like an [SM] Mall of Asia that they are constructing but I think they have some military or defense purpose.
The Philippine military had noted that seven reclamations are taking place in the conflict areas.
In a news briefing, Catapang showed aerial photos of the ongoing reclamations, including two that are inside the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.
He did not say who took the photos, which were taken in December last year and in February and March this year.
“So as [of]now we have monitored about seven reclamations in the area but we are much more concerned [with]two specific areas [that are]inside our exclusive economic zone.
These include the development that they [Chinese] would like to do in Mischief Reef, also in Mabini Reef and Chigua Reef, all of these are inside the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of the Philippines,” Catapang said.
When asked if the AFP is not frustratedabout not being able to do anything to stopping China’s apparent military activities and saber-rattling, he replied, “That’s the reality.”
He noted the need to increase military and defense expenditures and suggested that if the country cannot raise them to two percent of the gross national product (GNP), a law must be passed to allow the AFP modernization to be secured for the next 15 years.
“What I am proposing is that at least one percent of the national budget, approved national budget, will go [to]improvement of the capabilities of our defense and military units, to include the OCD [Office of Civil Defense] because we are fighting or facing also another global challenge, which is global climate change,” Catapang said.
He, however, pointed out that the AFP is prepared to defend the country, citing continuing naval patrols and troop supplies in the West Philippine Sea.
The AFP chief said it is now up to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to decide on what to do regarding the matter.
“Our job is just to know what is happening in the area and it is up to our national leaders to give us the marching orders on what to do,” he added.
“What we would like to highlight here is it’s not only the Philippines that should be concerned about what’s happening in the West Philippine Sea but entire nations or countries all over the world,” Catapang said.
According to the AFP chief, he is hoping that the Chinese government will recognize the Philippine claim to areas in the disputed waters so that no provocative actions will be taken against Filipino troops deployed there.