Who is the presidential candidate who, if elected in the May 2022 national elections, will most likely continue President Duterte’s defeatist policy in the West Philippine Sea (WPS)? President Duterte has declared that China is already in possession of the WPS, ceding to China possession of the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the WPS even if factually China is not in actual possession of the WPS.
President Duterte has allowed Chinese fishermen to fish in our EEZ in the WPS, contrary to the directive in our Constitution that the marine resources in our EEZ belong exclusively to Filipinos. President Duterte has even declared he is “inutile” in defending our EEZ in the WPS, obviously because he has boasted that China’s President Xi is his “protector” against any coup by the Philippine military for his defeatist WPS policy.
Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., if he becomes President, will most likely continue President Duterte’s defeatist WPS policy. Marcos Jr. has declared: “’Yung policy of engagement na ginagawa ng Duterte government, although it is criticized, it is the right way to go. Dahil kahit anong gawin natin, hindi naman natin pwede gyerahin. May nagsasabi bumili tayo ng patrol boats, ’yung mga jets, para kung sakali mapalaban tayo. Bakit natin iisipin ’yun kung mapalaban tayo, tapos ang gyerang ’yan wala pang isang linggo tapos na ’yan. Talo na tayo, ’wag na natin isipin ’yun,” he added. (The policy of engagement which the Duterte government is implementing, although it is criticized, is the right way to go. Because whatever we do, we can’t go to war. There are those who say we buy patrol boats, then the jets, just in case we get to fight. Why would we think we will fight? Then that war will be over in less than a week. We’re defeated already, let’s not think that way.)
Marcos Jr. faithfully echoes President Duterte’s defeatist WPS policy. Marcos Jr. proclaims “we’re defeated already,” so there is no point in even improving our self-defense capability by acquiring patrol boats and fighter planes. Marcos Jr. does not obviously believe in the value of deterrence and collective self-defense. It is the duty of every state to maintain a credible self-defense force to make it difficult and costly for other states to seize its territory or maritime zones. The absence of a credible self-defense force is an open invitation for other states to seize a state’s territory or maritime zones. History tells us that countries that failed to maintain a credible self-defense force were eventually annexed by, or became dependencies of, other states.
A state party to a mutual defense treaty has also an obligation to maintain a credible self-defense force to contribute according to its capability to the mutual defense effort. No country will enter into a mutual defense treaty with a country that does not take its self-defense seriously. For a non-nuclear armed state like the Philippines facing an aggression by a nuclear-armed state like China, the only recourse to deter China in the WPS is to maintain a mutual defense treaty with a nuclear-armed state like the United States. The maintenance of such a mutual defense treaty, however, requires taking our self-defense capability seriously.
A credible self-defense force is for deterrence against foreign aggression and not for starting wars of aggression. Starting a war has never been an option for the Philippines. Our own Constitution, and the United Nations Charter, prohibit wars of aggression. When China seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012, we did not send the Philippine marines to Scarborough Shoal. We sent our lawyers to The Hague to invalidate China’s nine-dash line. We resorted to lawfare in defending our sovereignty and sovereign rights.
The next President must resort to lawfare in declaring as contrary to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) China’s new Coast Guard law, which authorizes its vessels to use force in implementing China’s nine-dash line in the South China Sea. Last Nov. 16, 2021, Chinese Coast Guard vessels, empowered by its new law, water-cannoned Philippine resupply ships on their way to Ayungin Shoal, which the Arbitral Tribunal had ruled is part of the Philippine EEZ. If Marcos Jr. becomes our next President, he will surely not sue China before an Unclos tribunal to declare contrary to Unclos China’s new Coast Guard law.
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