PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd said the Philippines has no intention of challenging the military might of China, noting that his administration has no plan to rise up in arms against its neighbor over disagreements on some disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In his speech at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council in California after the two-day US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit, the President maintained that the only way to resolve the conflict is through “legal and peaceful” means.
“Let me make it clear: We have zero ambitions in terms of arming ourselves with our own weapons of mass destruction, we have no plans of trying to come up with some sort of deterrents against the military might of that superpower. In other words, in the classic argument of guns versus butter, we would rather spend our limited resources on the butter side of that equation,” he said.
Although Aquino did not directly mention China, the mainland is the only subject of a “memorial” or diplomatic complaint filed by Manila in relation to the sea disputes in the coveted territory.
“As for our region in Southeast Asia, we are also witnessing very aggressive actions by our big neighbor to our West and North, the world’s second largest economy, and a nuclear power at that… Yet, like all nations, we need to defend our rights,” he said.
These provocative actions by China, which include the reclamation of parts of the contested waters and the construction of military facilities on some islands and shoals there, were the reasons why the Philippine government resorted to arbitration.
“That is why we have accessed the channels available to us to try and resolve the issue in a manner that is both legal and peaceful, in the belief that in law, everybody is equal,” Aquino pointed out.
“My nation has resolved to accept whatever decision the Arbitral Tribunal makes, and we are hopeful that our neighbor, who has constantly reiterated their respect for international law, will in time do the same,” he said.
The United Nations’ Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to come up with its ruling on the complaint filed by the Philippines against China this year.
“I, along with my people, am hoping for a favorable outcome as regards arbitration. But I also feel the need to point out that it is far too dangerous to be caught up in traditional ideas of victory and defeat. In our modern world, it is becoming more and more evident that the only true victory is the preservation and enhancement of global harmony, because while a shrinking world results in nations sharing problems, it also affords us the tools necessary to more actively work together in pursuit of our shared aspirations,” Aquino told his audience composed of leaders in defense and trade.
“I, for one, still believe that there is no problem that can withstand global solidarity,” he said.
According to Aquino, these challenges are what compel nations “more than ever” to “contribute everything they can to address communal challenges, instead of entering into protracted debates over who should be doing what, and by how much.”
“It is in all our best interests to work for stability, not just in our nations, but in our regions. Thus, countries the world over must continue working to find commonalities and harmonize efforts, to give rise to a world order that allows people to live with peace, dignity and contentment in their homes. Make no mistake: This will never be easy, nor will it happen overnight,” he said.
Malacañang also on Wednesday said provocative acts should be avoided in the South China Sea.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Philippine government is also confirming reports on China’s deployment of missiles.
“Whatever the situation is, we’d like to remind everyone that there is a 2002 Declaration of Conduct, where I think Section 5, states that all parties should refrain from taking any action which would exacerbate the situation,” Lacierda told a news conference.
“It will not be in the interest of any nation, considering that a large percentage of trade happens in our seas, to exacerbate the situation or to [get us to a point]where tensions may arise,” he said.
With CATHERINE S. VALENTE