Ex-DND exec: Phl on its own in row with China
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 22, 2014 - 7:18pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines should not depend too much on the United States (US) for its external defense as Washington would only act to protect its interests, a former security official said Thursday.

Former Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said the Philippines should instead undertake military reforms to address its security challenges.

“You have to be very careful. You can’t rely on one power to come to your succor and defend you,” Mercado said in a speech delivered at the Development Academy of the Philippines in Pasig.

“The US will not fire a single bullet unless it is within their interest to do so,” he added.

Mercado said the Philippines’ move to renew its alliance with the US is a “good tactical move.” However, he said the Philippines could not let other nations secure its sovereignty.

“We cannot abdicate our role and function of defending the sovereignty of this nation. We cannot abdicate that function and give it to another country,” Mercado said.

He said he was hoping that the removal of US bases in the Philippines in 1991 would make Filipinos think about long term strategies.

“But we missed out on that and now, we are forced to do so. Let's not allow this crisis  to go to waste, let us develop our own mechanisms,” Mercado said.

Last month, the Philippines and the US signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which allows American troops to set up facilities in military bases in the country.

The deal was signed amid China’s aggressive efforts to assert its territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the subject of a long-standing dispute in the region.

The US has said that it won’t side with any country involved in the territorial row but is supportive of moves to resolve the issue through international arbitration.

Mercado said it is difficult, if not impossible to resolve the West Philippine Sea tussle or even match the capabilities of China’s armed forces.

“To effectively address our security challenges, we must first turn our weaknesses into strengths. We cannot respond by simply obtaining modern military equipment, weaponry and facilities,” the former defense chief said.

“What we need is, first to reform our armed forces,” he added.

Mercado noted that during his stint as defense secretary, he asked the assistance of the US to conduct an exhaustive management audit of the military.

He said the audit found “serous weaknesses” in the military including deficiencies in operations and training, systemic approach to policy planning and infrastructure support.

Mercado said it’s about time to revisit the Philippine Defense Reform Program to address gaps and to improve existing systems.

The Philippines, Mercado said, should resort to diplomacy or “soft power” to ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

“Bringing the dispute to the UN (United Nations) arbitral tribunal is using smart power. We have to draw from the well of creativity for tactics that may go beyond the conventional,” he added.

 

DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY OF THE PHILIPPINES ENHANCED DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY ORLANDO MERCADO MERCADO PHILIPPINE DEFENSE REFORM PROGRAM PHILIPPINES SOUTH CHINA SEA UNITED NATIONS UNITED STATES WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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