MANILA – The Philippines should start building up its weaponry and “stop throwing money at poverty,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Thursday, as China continues its aggressive behavior in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Locsin issued this statement after Sen. Panfilo Lacson called his attention to a 2013 China Daily Mail report quoting retired rear admiral Zhang Zhaozhong speaking about how the Chinese People’s Liberation Army should adopt a strategy in the disputed area.
“SFA Teddy Boy, a wide reader that you are, I just thought you might have skipped this one which shows the mindset of China on WPS. For whatever it is worth, I hope it will further enrich your perspective from the point of view of foreign policy,” Lacson told Locsin on Twitter.
Locsin responded by saying that “it is a free world now after the CIA defeated the USSR.” CIA stands for the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, while the USSR refers to the now-defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
“Every country can speak whatever is on its mind. What it says should not determine foreign policy but it should inform the national budgetary process that we gotta stop throwing money at poverty and throw it at weaponry,” Locsin added.
Lacson said he agrees with Locsin, “except that what they said a few years ago is exactly how they are conducting maneuvers” in the West Philippine Sea.
To this, Locsin replied: “China is doing an awful job in the South China Sea. Its actions there have turned everyone country against it—and for what? Reefs the US will turn into glass (sand turns to glass under extreme heat) in the first 3 minutes of a conflict. A stationary weapons platform is suicide.”
Since assuming presidency, President Rodrigo Duterte has sought to downplay Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing in exchange for improved ties with the world’s second largest economy.
Duterte has also refused to flaunt the Philippines’ victory against China in a United Nations-backed arbitration court in 2016 which invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims to the waters.
His predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, initiated the case against China but the ruling was handed down less than a month after the incumbent assumed power.
In a recent development, Duterte, however, appeared to have drawn a line following military reports that Chinese vessels were surrounding Pag-asa Island, the second naturally occurring island in the Spratlys archipelago, where China has built artificial islands to fortify its claims to the sea.
The President warned of “trouble” if the sea row claims the life of a Filipino soldier in the area.
“Sabihin ko sa China ngayon, they should also meet halfway,” the President said in a speech during a campaign rally of the PDP-Laban party in Batangas City.
“’Pag namatayan ako ng sundalo diyan (If I lose a soldier there), it could precipitate trouble there.”