MANILA—A group of retired military and police officers on Tuesday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to defend the the West Philippine Sea from China's continuous incursions.
Retired Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, chairman of the Advocates for National Interest, said the country's sovereignty and sovereign rights were "trampled" on and "violated" by China's aggressive maritime claim.
"Under our Constitution, everyone, including our commander-in-chief, the President, has the obligation of defending our sovereignty, our rights, our territory against all threats," Adan told ANC.
"We must speak as one because in the past few weeks or so, there have been divided voices and some of our countrymen, unfortunately, even espouse what we call the China narrative, which seeks to justify China's position in the West Philippine Sea issue."
Adan, former commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Command, also criticized Duterte's remarks that China was in control of the West Philippine Sea and the 2016 arbitral ruling was "just a piece of a paper."
"What we're saying is war is not the only option. There are other instruments of national power that can be used," Adan said.
"We would like to appeal to the President, together with many other groups we have seen lately requesting the President, to retract some of his statements, which do not conform with our national interest."
Adan also emphasized that the Duterte administration's "contradicting statements" on the West Philippine Sea weakened the country's claim on the maritime territory.
"As our legal luminaries have said, if we don't make a firm stand, since the President's words carried the weight of foreign policy, it weakens the Philippines' claim, it weakens the Philippines' position if we contradict ourselves. We must not allow that," he said.
The West Philippine Sea is the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims in entirety by demarcating it through its so-called 9-dash line.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of Manila and junked Beijing's claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea.
However, Beijing, which continues to ignore the landmark ruling, has been accused of militarizing also the marine resources- and energy-rich waters, a major international trade route.