Will Japan 'aid' worsen regional maritime dispute?

By Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jun 09 2015 04:52 PM | Updated as of Jun 10 2015 12:52 AM

Japan’s entry into a regional maritime dispute in the shadow of two bristling superpowers can only worsen security concerns, say former senators and foreign policy experts.

Former Senators Rene Saguisag (left) and Victor Ziga

“It may exacerbate the problems,” said former Senator Rene Saguisag, who pointed out that the Russians are joining the fray, with exercises scheduled in the disputed areas by 2016.

“That’s going to be another harmful provocation,” Saguisag said at the June 8 launch of P1NAS, a new coalition that seeks to promote an independent foreign policy for the Philippines.

READ: Citizen diplomacy needed amid superpowers clash

The former senator, who was part of the Senate bloc that voted in 1991 to oust the largest American bases outside of the US homeland, said the presence of foreign troops is not necessarily bad. He cited the battalion of military engineers sent by South Korea to assist communities devastated by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

It is when countries send troops to promote belligerent interests that security conditions become dangerous, Saguisag explained.

Modernization woes

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, former Senators Leticia Ramos-Shahani and Rene Saguisag at the launch of P1NAS, a movement to push for an independent Philippine foreign policy. Photo by Inday Espina-Varona

Former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani, who gave a “critical yes” vote for the retention of the US bases, agreed with Saguisag.

Both joined P1NAS to send a message to the powers now maneuvering in disputed waters that form one of the most important global maritime highways.

“I was for modernization of the Armed Forces,” Shahani said, criticizing successive Philippine governments for failing to use bases privatization earnings to upgrade facilities and equipment.

“Where has the money gone?” the former senator asked.

Independence and self-reliance are important, Shahani said. China and other countries will always turn covetous eyes on the Philippines because of its rich resources, including vast quantities of natural gas and minerals.

She said even a victory in a UN-backed tribunal hearing a case filed by the Philippines against China is no guarantee for peace.

WATCH: Shahani says China can always say 'No'

Shahani also gave this advice to Mr. Aquino – who spoke of multi-generational friendship during his recent Japanese trip: “Don’t forget, they (Japanese) invaded us.”

The hall fell silent when Shahani recalled how she witnessed the Japanese takeover of Manila on Jan. 1, 1942.

"I will never forget. I stood on Taft Avenue on Jan. 1, 1942. I watched the Japanese enter the Open City of Manila. And I cried. To see foreign troops enter your native land is one of the most humiliating experiences. I hope you will never experience that."

“There is nothing so humiliating as to see your home invaded,” Shahani said.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.