MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine military has admitted it has nothing in its arsenal that can be used in the event armed conflict breaks out among nations with conflicting claims over the Spratlys Group of Islands in the South China Sea..
This statement was made by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Ricardo David, Jr. at a press conference held on Wednesday after the 52nd RP-US Mutual Defense Board (MDB) meeting.
David was joined by Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the Hawaii-based US Pacific Command.
The meeting was held amid reports that Vietnam and Malaysia, which are also claimants to the contested islands, are embarking on the acquisition of submarines.
David said “these [acquisitions] are only natural tendencies of states to protect their interest, so normal lang sa mga Malaysians, sa Vietnam to have these military hardware so that they can protect, sabi ko nga, their interest in the area."
But the AFP chief doubts if a shooting war will break out among the claimants. He believes the conflicting claims on the islands can be settled before international fora, and, if war breaks out, David said “wala naman tayong ipuputok.”
David thus reiterated the need to procure assets for the military so it can guard Philippine territory.
“The Philippines must now procure or must have this minimal asset, kahit na minimal lang, hinihingi lang natin sa ating mamamayan,” said David.
Admiral Willard stressed the need for nations to develop the militaries that they think will meet their needs.
Willard described the appropriate security as one of “preventing conflict,” with importance on investing in sufficient military and security apparatuses to protect respective territorial waters.
“At the end of the day, that shows that we can all contribute to the peace and the continued security of the South China Sea region and throughout Southeast Asia," Willard said.
Willard assured that they are working continually with the AFP in trying to shape up the country's defense needs. He described the cooperation level as one conducted through joint training and exchange of intelligence information.
The Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Taiwan have conflicting claims over the South China Sea.