THE Philippines has to maintain its friendly and healthy relation with China despite the latter’s aggressive behavior in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) for regional peace and prosperity, according to a ranking official of the National Security Council (NSC).
NSC Deputy Director General Vicente Agdamag on Thursday said that Manila also needs to work closely with regional and local partners in shaping a benign China that respects the world order.
He stressed that the Philippines needs time to grow its economy and build a military that is capable and strong enough to defend against foreign aggression.
“So right now we are buying time. We need at least 10 years with sustained economic growth of 7 [percent]to 8 percent in order to grow our capability upgrade programs,” Agdamag said in a speech during a Philippine Air Force symposium at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
Agdamag called on the national government for an increase investment for defense to enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines to modernize and upgrade its armaments and fire power.
“We are recommending that we commit an increase in our investment for defense, from 5 [percent]to 1 percent of the GDP [gross domestic product]on top of the current 1,1 percent,” he added.
“So right now our defense budget is 1,1 percent of our current national budget so we are recommending an additional of .5 [percent]to 1 percent not only to be at part with our neighbors and more importantly to develop a modicum of a credible defense capability to protect our maritime and strategic interest,” Agdamag pointed out.
Furthermore, he said, “we need to enhance our security alliance with our allies and neighbors, especially the United States when it is still able to deter china . . .”
According to Agdamag, the chronology of events in the West Philippine Sea amid China’s claim of the entire Spratlys, confirms a clear intention to consolidate its control over the disputed area.
It all started, he pointed out, in March 2011 when a Chinese patrol ship drove away a Philippine oil exploration vessel at the Reed Bank.
The Reed Bank incident was followed by the Scarborough Shoal confrontation off the coast of Zambales, the grounding of a Chinese navy frigate on Hasa-Hasa Shola in Palawan and the latest in Ayunging Shoal.
Agdamag noted that, even the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations has failed to come out with a binding Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea, which is important in maintaining peace and stability in the area.
Given the situation, Agdamag pointed out, that the Philippines is doing the right move though firm on its stand that Scarborough and Ayungin Shoals, among others, are within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone, which is based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas.
William B. Depasupil