MANILA - President Benigno Aquino said Wednesday that Filipinos will fight for what is right and just for the country's national interests.
Speaking at the commemoration rites of the Day of Valor in Bataan Province to honor the World War II fighters, Aquino said, "Even back then, it was clear to all Filipinos: small though we may be, if we know that we are on the side of what is right and just, we will fight."
Aquino did not mention China is his speech. The Philippines is locked in tense maritime and territorial disputes with that increasingly assertive country, which claims almost the entire South China Sea as its own.
Tension in the disputed sea has intensified recently over China's occupation of a disputed shoal and its alleged intrusions into other Philippine-claimed areas.
"Perhaps if one asks the current generation about the meaning of sacrifice, the most fitting answer would be your example," Aquino told the veterans.
"Was it not you veterans who, for the sake of our flag, charged with full resolve into danger and uncertainty? In the face of great challenge, you withstood hunger, thirst, and pain; you did not think twice about putting your lives on the line for the well-being of the majority. Through the example you have set, the Filipino spirit remains alive today," he said.
Aquino also stressed the need to well equip soldiers.
"As we continue to care for our veterans, so too have we continued to ensure that our soldiers in service today have the ability to fulfill their responsibilities. Should we ever need to enter battle, we cannot send our soldiers off armed only with their courage and daring," he said.
He said the government has allotted over P36 billion ($800 million) to modernize the country's ageing military fleet.