No. 1 security threat Duterte must address

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[D]oes this not expose the Philippines to the animosities, suspicions and the conflicts arising out of the American military build-up — animosities and conflicts that we have no participation in making — and do not these bases endanger the safety of the Filipinos and the Philippines, not only from conventional armed attack, but from possible nuclear attack?
— President Ferdinand Marcos on US military installations in the country, 1975

In criticizing Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay for not playing up the country’s arbitration victory in The Hague, his predecessor Albert del Rosario and holdover Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia Jr. insisted that confronting China would best safeguard Philippine security and territorial interests.

Well, look at the results of six years of then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s confrontation policy, spearheaded by del Rosario and Cuisia.

The 2012 face off between our Navy’s largest vessel and a flotilla of Chinese maritime surveillance ships lost Scarborough Shoal.


With the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement boosting US forces in the archipelago, China has countered with military-capable facilities on Fiery Cross Reef to defend its vital sea lanes, where four-fifths of its oil imports pass.

Despite the EDCA, the US hasn’t given us the defense commitment pledged to Tokyo in its dispute with Beijing over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands. The Malacañang Press Corps found that out when President Barack Obama would not say what America would do if territorial frictions with China turned violent.

Despite cheers from foreign allies and media for the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling against China’s maritime claims and activities, it still ignores the PCA decision — as other big powers like America and Russia did in international cases against them.

Most worrisome, the increased presence of US warships, submarines, and aircraft, which can hit most of China with nuclear-capable cruise missiles from the Philippines, has made the country a legitimate target in any Sino-American conflict.

This is now our paramount security threat which Duterte must address, far more dangerous than faraway tussles in the Spratlys.

This Aquino policy of hosting nuclear-capable American forces puts at grave risk our people, land, sea and air — the very reason framers of the 1987 Constitution explicitly banned foreign military bases and nukes.

How the EDCA endangers Filipinos
This threat to national security was what the late Ferdinand Marcos feared in his above-quoted 1975 statement. By hosting and supporting US forces, he pointed out, the Philippines would be dragged into any American conflict in Asia, even those that don’t concern us at all.

What’s worse, by accepting more nuclear-capable US naval and air forces, the EDCA has made the Philippines a strategic threat to China, just as Russian missiles nearly placed in Cuba in 1962 would have turned the island into a nuclear threat to the U.S.

In the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, American and Russian thermonuclear forces went on full alert, ready for World War III. That near-Armageddon ended only after Moscow sent its missiles back home after Washington agreed to remove projectiles it put in Turkey.

That confrontation was over missiles not yet deployed. Today, there are already hundreds of cruise and ballistic missiles, many with nuclear warheads, entering the Philippines on ships, subs and planes of the Seventh Fleet.

And there will be more once Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija bases receive US aircraft and weaponry.

Meanwhile, China gears up to counter the American buildup in the Philippines. That’s what the Fiery Cross Reef installation is for, and expect more ilke it if U.S. forces further expand hereabouts.

No doubt, too, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) missile batteries are targeting parts of our nation and its internal waters where U.S. vessels pass, plus the bases they’ll use.

With such perils to the Philippines, you’d think America would give us the same explicit assurance of armed support that Japan got with just one US base in Okinawa.

No such commitment. Right after the EDCA was signed in April 2014 and just days after reiterating Washington’s defense pledge for the Tokyo-administered Senkakus, President Obama could only reply that disputes should be settled peacefully when asked twice what America would do if our tensions with China turned violent.

The right way to deal with China
Now, del Rosario and Cuisia want Yasay to continue Aquino’s confrontation policy, prodding ASEAN to talk tough against Beijing, and allowing more US forces in the country. No matter that China may punish the Philippines as America penalized Cuba, with 170,000 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong possibly first to suffer.

Washington, too, is keen for President Rodrigo Duterte to continue Aquino’s course, sending top officials to woo him, including Secretary of State John Kerry.

President Duterte and Secretary Yasay should not be swayed to reprise a failed and dangerous confrontation policy. Instead, they and former president Fidel Ramos — a brilliant choice for the China talks — should forge a deal that institutes safeguards to reduce tension and conflict, prevent more encroachments, and eventually allow fishing and resource activities (see < http://www.manilatimes.net/after-the-un-case-duterte-calls-the-us-china-match/273591/ >).

China must also be pressed to desist from Spratlys reclamation and military buildup. Of course, the Philippines must act to reduce the US threat to Chinese shipping, which partly spurred Beijing’s build-up.

As for our external defense, rather than depend on Uncle Sam, the Philippines must acquire and deploy anti-access, area denial weapons like anti-ship missiles and submarines, as security think-tanks have urged and Vietnam has done (see “Defending the Philippines” < http://www.manilatimes.net/defending-the-philippines/240541/ >).

Aquino quarrelled with China, then escalated American forces in the country, providing both rationale and real estate for Washington’s Pivot To Asia plan to shift most of its naval assets to the region.

Duterte, Ramos and Yasay should pull the Philippines back from that perilous path and chart a new course that truly advances national security and regional peace.

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22 Comments

  1. ben victoria on

    China’s no brainer secret agenda over the south china sea which is to own it by hook or by crook as exemplified by China’s 9 dash line attempt but fortunately declared void by the Hague rulings. China is desperate to take south china sea for its oil, gas, fish and most importantly air and water sovereignty, this last entity happened to be diametrically in conflict with US Freedom of Navigation Operation(FONO) and involves other major nations as well. PH should be thankful for the US EDCA serving as deterrent against China’s aggressive behaviors. Militarisation was started by China that prompted US to deploy state of the art weaponry in 5 PH bases. It will be China vs US if war breaks out.

  2. Prinze Fisher on

    A point i derived from your article is that China becomes defensively aggressive because they are aware of the US Military build-up in the Philippines (i.e. EDCA, etc.), which is a grave threat to their national security. Very clear point it is.

    This, I think is the main reason why China becomes unreasonably aggressive.

    We shouldn’t have let the US to do such things in our Motherland.

  3. Tirso Villanueva on

    duterte said the moment he got elected he would ride a jet ski carrying a Philippine flag and plant it on the Scarborough Shoal. now is the time Bat bigla natakot sya.. puro lng pala drama..

  4. China has grabbed a part of the Philippines already, what target are we talking about?

    If we are just a half as patriotic and responsible as the most lowly nation, we should have fought China in every way we can, economic or otherwise, even sup with the devil to deal with China.

    So don’t talk about avoiding conflict with China, it is happening now, to us -Pilipinos.

    Talk about practical ways of neutralizing a hungry, life consuming giant who has no regard for any other sentient being.

    For starters why not consider how to eliminate the local tentacles of this monster, the Binondo Chinese, the CPP-kuno, etc., the banks, the Chinese businesses, the corrupt politicians- the real living persons who sold the landfill for the bases china has just constructed; the media who write disinformation to mislead us into thinking that we can co-exist with greedy China, who does not respect anything, but on second thought has nothing more than long range evil plans, designs and intentions; who has provided us the drugs, precursors, labs, manufacturing tools and knowhow to turn us into addicts…

    Anything, anyone who can help fight against this monster in any way, is a help to us.

  5. The best option is for the country to build a credible defence structure while in the meantime engage China in a diplomatic manner.Give some concessions if we must while building up our defence capability.No way should we entertain the thought of unarmed neutrality.That would only encourage China and even other Asian neighbours to look down upon us and perhaps taking away other parts of the country gradually.
    We have seen how the US refused an unequivocal commitment to our defence even with the existence of the mutual defence treaty.No one but we Filipinos are responsible for our own national security.We must secure our country even if there were fewer schools,roads and other infrastructures.National existence should come first above all else or we should give up our independence.We fought for independence therefore we should defend it.No use frightening ourselves about China nuking us.Have we seen any country with nuclear weapons using it as a first option?
    The exemption is the US when it used atomic weapons to end World War 2.Did Russia,North Korea,Great Britain,France ever used it.Even Israel when its very existence came into peril during the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria refrained from using it.Besides the Philippines never was an aggressor in its history even when its territory was taken or when an Asian neighbour aggressively supported a secessionist war to separate its southern part.

  6. Virgilio garcias on

    EDCA is vital to our security. If there’s no EDCA, China is more agressive in grabbing our territories. We have to accept the hurting truth, we are not capable of defending our lands alone. We need help from our allies.

    Mr. Saludo, you should have based your opinion both ways, not only pro China.

  7. OK OK so let’s not depend on the US for weapons defense because the left and brain dead nationalist hate that idea.

    There an alternative, get congress to just cede (sell) off the shoals and rights to Uncle Sam in return for IMF World Bank write off on our foreign debt. US Nuclear warships gets the right to patrol the shipping zone, keep capitalist trading open and prospect for gas. The global loan sharks get paid, we get to start with a new slate, our fishermen can fish beside the US fleet in the area, in what will be free zone or international waters no longer EEZ.

    Oh! But how dare we sell Philippine sovereignty to evil Uncle Sam, what about angering poor Uncle Chin Chin China ? The left will cry. You know what we get from dealing with China, shabu by the mega-tons flooding into the RP.

  8. Nomer obnamia on

    This nuke issue is a topic discussed so many times in the past. Filipinos want protection from nuclear-armed China but adamant in letting nuclear-armed ally in the vicinity. So why not make defense plans by yourselves and quit involving Americans into the equation? Stop talking do something. You do a great job worrying about nuke but PI is not a target for a nuke because it has no capability to respond and it will be an overkill when the Chinese can take it using slingshots.

  9. Ignacio Balbutin on

    Your column suggest that you don’t know the history of China. China is a belligerent country since time immemorial. Their different dynasties has been bent on conquering territories after territories. Now they are bent on conquering every island that is deemed rich in oil and gas, the very reason why they occupied and build an island in the spratlys. With or without the US forces in the Philippines China will surely attack the Philippines if the tense situation in the West Philippine flare up. The presence of the US forces in the Philippines is to prevent such scenario to happen. Besides, China”s economy is crumbling down because its belligerent attitude against the international community and this will the reason why they will be conquering islands where oil and gas is found to bolster its economy. And to remind you it was the american forces who freed us from Spain colonization for 3 centuries and it was the american forces who freed us from cruel Japanese colonization in WW2. Such kind of deep friendship can not be erased from the memory of patriotic filipinos.

    • Ignacio Balbutin on

      And mind you it was China who supported the communist party of the Philippines which has killed thousands of filipino lives mostly military from their treacherous ambuscades.

  10. D]oes this not expose the Philippines to the animosities, suspicions and the conflicts arising out of the American military build-up — animosities and conflicts that we have no participation in making — and do not these bases endanger the safety of the Filipinos and the Philippines, not only from conventional armed attack, but from possible nuclear attack?
    — President Ferdinand Marcos on US military installations in the country, 1975

    Today, there are already hundreds of cruise and ballistic missiles, many with nuclear warheads, entering the Philippines on ships, subs and planes of the Seventh Fleet.
    And there will be more once Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija bases receive US aircraft and weaponry.
    Meanwhile, China gears up to counter the American buildup in the Philippines. That’s what the Fiery Cross Reef installation is for, and expect more ilke it if U.S. forces further expand hereabouts.
    No doubt, too, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) missile batteries are targeting parts of our nation and its internal waters where U.S. vessels pass, plus the bases they’ll use.

    Alone,these quotes underline the seriousness with which China may currently interpret EDCA and it’s consequent build-up of “U.S./enemy” bases; making territorial targets within reach both of China and the DRP respectively.

    Tit-for-tat military build-ups will not have the desired result of a truthful peace in the region..and beyond.

    Duterte and the DRP needs to impress upon the U.S. that the EDCA has to be demolished so as to allow attempts with China to peacefully “exploit” a mutually-balanced economic agreement of the South China Sea’s so-called bounty bi-laterally together..without the U.S. leaning over the shoulders. After-all,the risks attendant to retaining the EDCA agreement is still not counter-balanced by a solid 100% commitment by the U.S. to come to the party, should violence break out in the region of the DRP.

  11. Brilliant choice dao si FVR for the China talks? Really? Panahon nga ni FVR 1995 nakuha ng China Ang atin Mischief Reef at wala syang nagawa Na kunin Ito ulit. Sigurado papabor yan Sa China! Dapat sina Del Rosario at Carpio Ang pinadala at Mas patriotic Ang mga Ito.

  12. The number one security threat to the Philippines is CHINA!!! CHINA is a not only a bully but a land grabber. CHINA has no respect for word or complaints from weak countries and the only way to stop China’s aggression are words backed by power.

  13. China is playing a dangerous game, pushed mostly by its military. They want to play with their new “toys”. But the economy is already down, and if countries should suddenly ban Chinese imports, their government would collapse. But it’s difficult to find anything not made in China. No one is threatening China, so why are they being so belligerent?
    Regarding the areas they have taken in the China Sea, the surrounding countries have been squabbling for years but did not try to occupy them. So China did. The militarization of these areas is unfortunate, but probably rather easily made useless by opposing forces if necessary.

    • Human-history repeatably tells us that a growing regional power (in the present case),China,will naturally flex it’s muscles and attempt to exert it’s political and economic control ever further in the World,using many methods including; propaganda,bluff,threats,island-building,and gentle,cautious military activities.
      History also repeatedly reminds us that warfare does not a lasting-Peace give!
      China hold’s most of the high cards in her hands right now,including military might.
      The U.S. cannot win any wars..even little north Viet Nam ran rings around it during the American War.
      The U.S. is far from trustworthy,as is China. Sleeping with either and believing their “love” is bound to result in regrettable off-spring.
      Trying words and attempts at bi-lateral and peaceful resolutions is a good start..without busy-bodies lurking in the wings.
      Having the EDCA means “busy-bodies” in the wings!

    • I agree, J. Shire! China is the bully in the neighborhood who obviously can’t get enough. If nations would agree to pressure China economically, it would tread more carefully. The economy is down and because it lacks transparency and credibility when it comes to their numbers, we never know the true state of the nation. In my books, 80% of what China publishes are lies and the rest is dubious. Countries should put their heads together and THINK of a solution instead of bickering and complaining.

  14. nais kong dugtungan ang aking naunang sinabi with the parable of the three ants:

    sabi ng unang langgam sa 2 niyang kasama nang makaharap nila ang elepante, “Babalian ko ang kumag na elepanteng ito”;
    Sagot ng ikalawang langgam, “Huwag pare, di tama ang nag-iisa. Sama tayong dalawa.”
    Sambot naman ng ikatlong langgam: “Mga pare, huwag kayong padalus-dalot. Malaki ang elepanteng yan. Dapat magsama-sama tayong tatlo. All for one; one for all!

  15. andito si uncle sam hindi sapagkat lab na lab niya si juan de la cruz. Nakiki-alam si uncle sam dahil sa implication ng military strategy at ekonomia.
    Hindi ito isyu ng contradiction ni uncle sam at ni Beho. Ang dapat magso-solve nito ay si Juan de la Cruz at si Beho. Hindi porke nanalo si Juan de la Cruz sa Hague ay tapos na ang labanan. Nagkameron lang si Juan ng moral ascendancy. Pero da bes pa ring course of action ay bilateral. Walang police power ang UN. At the most , ang magagawa niya ay “naming” at “shaming” sa ginagawang pangangagaw ni Beho. Sa history, kahit sa evangelical missions sa China nang una, mas effective ang bilateral. Di magpapagulat si Beho. Sa maniwala kayo at sa hindi.

  16. “No matter that China may punish the Philippines as America penalized Cuba…”

    Possibility versus reality. Communist China versus Democratic Philippines. Democratic U.S.A. versus Communist Cuba.

    Wouldn’t the parallelism be perfect if one considers the ongoing Maoist struggle inside Democratic Philippines?

    Any punishment on top of the ongoing efforts to topple the Philippine Government from all sides (include Malaysia) would just be icing on the cake.

  17. michael Corner on

    Love the bit near the end of the article where the writer says ‘rather than depend on uncle Sam, the Philippines must must acquire and deploy ant-access, area denial weapons…..and submarines’…….dream on!
    I remember the Yolanda crisis as perhaps we all do. It seems to me the filipino pockets weren’t deep enough to alleviate the sufferings of those caught up in the tragedy at the time. And so the rest of the world gave. i can’t remember the size of China’s contribution but I seem to remember – smallish. And also from from memory, the number of Yolanda victims didn’t run into the hundreds of thousands. As an economic stress test the Philippines came up short. So, al in all, I think the budget for the submarines and the other big toys needed to deter the chinese might be severely limited.

    And lets face it – China is one of the bigger boys in the ‘playground of the South China Sea’ right now and increasingly belligerent. You’ll need a VERY beefy friend to help you if the guano looks like hitting the fan.

    And while we’re at it let’s not forget the events of WW2. it wasn’t Philippine military might that solved that particular problem either.

    • I remember seeing,when I was flying down to Leyte early December 2013, a Chinese hospital ship anchored off-shore from Tacloban’s virtually demolished airport. I presume it was utilised positively to alleviate the dire emergency, which would have cost the Chinese government.
      I also gently remind you that many countries promised many billions of pesos towards assistance and rehabilitation of survivors..enough for a submarine or two..but the money magically disappeared into many pockets,leaving little or no help for the hundreds of thousands of damaged families in Central Philippines.