Newly-appointed Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilbert Teodor Jr. on Wednesday said other countries should not "question" the Philippines' expansion of capabilities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
He made the statement when asked about his stand on the issue of China’s aggression in the WPS.
“Just like we do not question the buildup of not even defensive capabilities but offensive capabilities of other countries,” Teodoro said in an interview on ANC.
“They should not question ours and they should not tie up our buildup of our capabilities to any questions of whether it's Taiwan or whatnot . The Philippines is for the Philippines and we leverage that,” he added.
In a press conference, Teodoro said he will take into account the pronouncements of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. not to sacrifice the gains on defense and that “our territory is our territory.”
“We shall evolve the security policies, but definitely taking into account the President's pronouncements, number one is that national defense shall transition, of course, without sacrificing the gains in internal security to external defense,” he said.
“Number two, our territory is our territory, and UNCLOS, the basis of that, cannot be changed by the passage of time nor changes in the administration,” he added.
He said it is the job of the Defense chief to build up a credible deterrent for the country, which is not the business of other countries.
“The job of the Secretary of National Defense is first and foremost building up our credible deterrent, and the way we build up our credible deterrent is our business and nobody else's business,” he said.
“Whether we partner with Country X or Y in order to build up our own core strength is a question for the Philippines,” he added.
According to Teodoro, other countries would want to help the Philippines because they consider the nation an “integral whole”, “standalone”, and “standing strong” with democratic values.
Teodoro pointed out that the Philippines is a “value proposition” and not a “pawn” to any other countries caught in geopolitical battles within the region.
“The Philippines is a value proposition, as we call it, by its own self and not a pawn of anybody else in the geopolitical battle that’s raging in our area now,” he said.
However, Teodoro noted, as ordered by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., that agreement and cooperations with other countries should be purely for defensive purposes.
“We must take that admonition very seriously so that it does not result in any misinterpretation or whatsoever,” he said.
Marcos has been reiterating that the Philippines will not give up an inch of its territory including the WPS amid the reported aggression of China in the territory.
China is taking claim to the entire South China Sea, including parts of the Philippine territory, through its "nine-dash line policy". In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague already junked China's claim.
China, however, refuses to acknowledge the ruling and remains aggressive in the West Philippine Sea. Manila has already lodged several diplomatic protests against Beijing for its actions in the disputed waters —VAL, GMA Integrated News