MANILA – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Monday admitted that the country has neglected its external defense because it has been "so focused on internal security issues."
"So, to a certain extent, we have neglected addressing our other mandates, specifically territorial defense," Bautista told ANC's Prime Time.
According to Bautista, the AFP’s modernization program aims to catch up on building the country's capability to defend its territory.
"We’re just filling in the void, what we have not filled up for a long time," he said.
Asked if China’s recent actions in the West Philippine Sea make the AFP’s modernization more urgent, Bautista said this "brings to the fore the necessity of really upgrading our capabilities to establish at least a minimum credible defense, so that we are not bullied by other countries."
Bautista explained that a minimum credible defense is "a situation where other countries would hesitate in getting into our territory."
"We should be able to know what is happening in our territory, so we would have radars to detect any intrusions, either maritime or air intrusions, and the ability to tell that there are unwanted persons in our territory," he explained.
The second part, he said, is being able to assert our sovereignty "by being present, and showing the flag in our territory."
"Our mandate is to protect the people in the state, secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of our national territory. We should be able to do that, if not unilaterally, with the help of friends and allies," he said.
Bautista also said the cost of invading another country is going to be high, and is a move that would result in global condemnation.
Asserting our right
On the recent Chinese harassment at the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), Bautista said, "It is our responsibility to resupply our people in Ayungin. We have to find creative ways to do that."
Bautista was talking about the recent incident where the Chinese Coast Guard tried to block a Philippine civilian ship that was going to deliver supplies to Filipino soldiers stationed in Ayungin.
According to Bautista, they did not want to appear provocative, which is why they used a civilian ship for the re-supply mission.
"We are the smaller country here. How can we in any way intimidate or provoke China? They are the ones who are blocking our re-supply, who are blocking our fishermen in the South China Sea. That’s why we brought media with us in the re-supplying, to tell the world who is the bully is, and we have seen who the real bully is," he said.
Bautista said the mission was a calculated risk, noting it wasn't the first time Chinese ships tried to prevent Philippine ships from sending supplies to soldiers on a grounded ship on Ayungin Shoal.
"We cannot be cowed by intimidation. We should not give in to terror. We have to assert our right," he said.
Bautista also explained why it chose international arbitration to resolve its maritime disputes with China.
"We renounce war as an instrument of national policy. That is why we bought this issue for international arbitration. We want to resolve this issue peacefully through arbitration and not through the use of force or intimidation," Bautista said.