MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines should be defending the country's waters from China instead of being preoccupied with "red tagging" fellow Filipinos, a political analyst said Sunday.
"Bakit hinahabol nila ang kapwa Pilipino sa ating bansa? Nire-redtag nila. Pero ang pinakamalaking communist party sa mundo, nag-e-encroach na sa waters natin, ano'ng ginagawa? Ano, very friendly pa rin sila," Roland Simbulan, who teaches political science at the University of the Philippines, said in a virtual press briefing.
(Why are they going after their fellow Filipinos? They are being red-tagged. What are they doing with the largest communist party in the world that is encroaching our waters? They seem to be very friendly with them.)
The Philippines has filed diplomatic protests over the reported presence of hundreds of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea in recent weeks.
Last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs summoned Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian, telling China to immediately withdraw all its vessels from the Julian Felipe Reef and other parts of the West Philippine Sea.
Simbulan said the Philippines should strengthen its partnerships and security agreements with countries like the United States, Australia, India and Japan.
"We need the United States for our security, para matulungan tayo sa external defense (to help us in our external defense)," Simbulan said.
The Philippines should also assert the Permanent Court of Arbitration's 2016 ruling, which invalidated China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea.
"Speaking of enforcing The Hague ruling, compared to other ASEAN countries, Navy natin pinakamahina (our Navy is the weakest). We have no choice but to seek the support ng ating (of our) security agreements with Japan and Malaysia," said Simbulan.
Last week, the Philippine Coast Guard held maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea, where close to 7 Chinese ships were spotted.
The military leadership has also ordered the deployment of additional assets for patrol missions in the West Philippine Sea following the latest Chinese incursions.
"Nararapat lang na, hindi lang i-patrol pero paalisin ang mga andyan. Pero dahil mahina ang Armed Forces natin, dapat lang humingi tayo ng tulong," said political analyst Ramon Casiple.
(We should not just conduct patrols. We should drive them away. But because our armed forces is not that strong, it's only right that we ask for help.)
Casiple said the Duterte administration should also revive relations with other countries for a common policy on the Philippines’ arbitral victory.
"Tingin ko, panahon na para magkaroon ng resumption sa pakikipag-usap sa anong relasyon ng mga bansa sa South China Sea. Matagal na 'yan, pero hindi nagkaroon ng paguunlad sa panahon ng Duterte administration," Casiple said.
(I think it's time for a resumption in the talks among countries in the South China Sea. That has long been done, but there was no progress during the Duterte administration.)
"May attempts, pero walang nangyayari. Panahon na i-resume 'yan. Pati susunod na administrasyon, na magkaroon ng kalinawan diyan," he said.
(There have been attempts but nothing happened. It's time to resume that. The next administration should pursue that to have clarity.)
For Simbulan, the Philippines should be firm in enforcing a rules-based approach on China while engaging in multi-lateral cooperation and action with other allied countries.
Simbulan believes that the administration's close ties with China is largely affecting the territorial issues.
"Ang pagtingin ng Duterte administration, kailangan natin ang China dahil ang China napaka-prosperous, and we need it for our economy kasi marami siyang pera for investment, for aid, to aid 'Build Build Build," he said, referring to the government's infrastructure program.
(From the point of view of the Duterte administration, we need China because it is prosperous, and we need it for our economy because it has plenty of money for investment, for aid, to aid the Build, Build, Build program.)
— Report from Angel Movido, ABS-CBN News