MANILA - The Philippines must come up with a new national defense law and consider the return of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), a foreign policy expert said Friday as the conflict between US, China, and Taiwan escalates.
Government will have to remain neutral "in terms of rhetoric" but has to "prepare for possible eventuality," according to Renato de Castro, member of the International Studies Department at the De La Salle University in Manila.
"We have the National Defense Act of 1936 which was drafted during the Commonwealth period. We were still a territory of the US," he told ANC's Headstart.
"Number 2, we probably need to consider the return of the ROTC because we really need to prep our population if push comes to shove."
It's best for the Philippines to "play both sides" in terms of diplomacy while at the same time strengthening its military, De Castro said.
"The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been focused on internal security for so long, it’s time for us to put our money where our mouth is," he said.
"Third, continue fostering our security partnerships with South Korea, Australia, and Japan, ensuring that ASEAN centrality remains one of the pillars of great power competition in our region."
The Philippines must also strengthen its relationships with its allies for assistance in the evacuation of some 160,000 Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan, De Castro added.
"How are we gonna evacuate 150,000 to 160,000 overseas Filipino workers when we don't have the military capability to do so," he said.