PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday admitted that the Philippines is no match against China’s sheer number but that a confrontation with Asia’s superpower is something “not inevitable.”
In an interview with the Bombo Radyo network, Aquino likened the possibility of a standoff with China to a boxing match match where the odds would be 1 is to 13 in favor of a much bigger opponent.
“Kunyari mag-boxing na lang tayo, may Manny Pacquiao tayo, pero ang problema 1.3 billion sila, 100 million tayo. Ang sabi nga ng mga bata, magpitikan tayo ng ilong, isang pitik natin, 13 pitik nila medyo maagang mamamaga ‘yung ilong natin.
[If this were a boxing match, we have a Manny Pacquiao, but the problem is, there are 1.3 billion of them and we’re just 100 million. As children, we are wont to say, let’s settle this by just flicking noses. But should we do this, one hit from us, they get back to us 13 times and we’ll end up being the first to have a sore nose].”
The President, however, said he does not believe that a maritime dispute in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) between Manila and Beijing would eventually lead to a military confrontation.
“I don’t agree that a confrontation is inevitable,” Aquino pointed out.
The President made the remarks amid the worsening row with China over islands and shoals in the South China Sea, where China continues to conduct reclamation activities to expand the area it occupies at present.
Manila had filed a “memorial” with the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea contesting China’s nine-dash line rule in asserting its sovereignty.
Aquino explained that while China proves to be “mightier,” the Philippine government would not just sit down and wallow in desperation.
“We can’t just neglect our Armed Forces. Records are there to prove that what my administration has done surpasses what previous governments [did]since the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] Modernization Law was enacted [in the late 1990s]. My administration in fact pushed to expand the law,” he said.
“I’ll hold my head high and will declare without fear of contradiction that our defense capabilities are far better now,” the President added.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has urged Washington to substantiate its rebalance to Asia policy and to focus on recent developments in the South China Sea.
This was del Rosario’s message to top State Department officials as well as Senators John McCain and Bob Corker whom he recently met in Washington.
He launched the US-Philippines Strategic Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies during his two-day visit.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said del Rosario’s “main message” when he talked with the US officials was “to give more focus on recent developments in the South China Sea and provide more substance to its Asia rebalance policy.”
“If you will note, the US announced its Asia policy some years back, and we still have yet to see more substance into this policy,” he added during a briefing also on Thursday.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter earlier hinted that Pentagon is mulling the possibility of sending more aircraft and ships to the region to ensure peace, stability and the unimpeded flow of commerce there.
Del Rosario said these vessels would be manned by American military personnel.
But Jose refused to comment on whether such scenario of increased American presence in the region would be beneficial or risky for the Philippines, which has overlapping claims with China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam on the resource-rich waters of the South China Sea.
“I think we have yet to find out in greater detail the US plans because now they’re only considering [aircraft and ship deployment]. We don’t know yet what they’re planning so unless and until we get more details of the US plan, that’s the only time we can comment,” he said.