China is expected to seize control of some of the Philippines’ waterways if a war emerges between Beijing and Washington, former Philippine Armed Forces chief Emmanuel Bautista said.
According to a report on South China Morning Post on Friday, Bautista said the Philippines’ location with routes linking the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean made it a “key terrain.”
Among the routes Bautista identified were the Bashi Channel next to the Batanes and Babuyan Islands near Taiwan and the straits of Mindoro, Cebu, Balabac, San Bernardino and Surigao.
“If you want to influence the South China Sea, you need to control these chokepoints,” Bautista said.
Although China said it would not start a war amid escalating tensions with the United States, Bautista said Beijing was “getting more aggressive” in the disputed sea and its border with India.
“Territorial disputes in the Indo-Pacific are flashpoints that can spark a confrontation between the US and China,” he said.
Bautista said a war between the U.S. and China would “seek to control the country."
“Assuming [things] get out of hand and result in a shooting war … China will seize the Philippines,” Bautista said.
Moreover, he said China’s militarization and the construction of island bases posed a “direct threat.”
“From these bases, China can launch missiles and fighter aircraft towards our main archipelago within minutes,” Bautista said.
Bautista also warned about Chinese “grey zone” activities or efforts even before a potential conflict to control strategic parts of the Philippines.
“There are already activities being undertaken by China to access the Philippines in terms of procuring or constructing airports and seaports. There was an effort to acquire not just Fuga Island, which is one of the chokepoints, but even the Sangley airport construction [at the mouth of Manila Bay,” Bautista said.
With this, Bautista said the challenge for the Philippines is to assert its rights while, at the same time, avoiding conflict.
“We cannot set aside sovereignty and sovereign acts just because we want to avoid conflict,” he said. -NB, GMA News