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Philippines slowly developing credible defense – AFP

Ralph Edwin Villanueva - The Philippine Star
Philippines slowly developing credible defense â AFP
Photo shows Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. who has been appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as the next chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Philippine Army website

MANILA, Philippines — The country is slowly developing “credible” defense against “any threat,” the newly appointed chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

“We do not arm ourselves so we would go to a war, we are arming ourselves to protect our sovereign rights, sovereignty, our territories and any complex threats that the country is facing,” AFP chief Lt. Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

He said the West Philippine Sea issue is one of the biggest challenges the AFP should deal with, hopefully without having to resort to armed confrontation with any of the country’s neighbors.

“We have internal security threats and external threats. Right now, we could say that our (AFP) modernization has come a long way,” he added.

“The challenge, really, is how to protect the sovereignty (of the country) without going to war. We have to take appropriate actions, especially in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

The new chief of the AFP also voiced optimism that the country would be able to transition to territorial defense “little by little,” within the administration of President Duterte.

“We will not single out any country. We know the threats that our country is facing now,” Faustino said.

“But whatever kind of threat, be it terrorism, be it external aggression, that is what we are preparing for,” he added.

The country is embroiled in a maritime dispute with China, which has seized several land features in the West Philippine Sea, where it has also built artificial fortified islands.

Acting on an arbitral case filed by the Aquino administration in 2013, the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague invalidated in July 2016 China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea and reaffirmed Manila’s own maritime entitlements. China refused to abide by the decision while the Duterte administration insisted the Philippines has no capability to enforce it.

“Well, I’ll tell you, even on the coast beach of Palawan, before you can take off, the missile of China would be there in about five or 10 minutes. It would be a massacre if I go and fight a war now. We are not yet a competent and able enemy of the other side,” he said in his final State of the Nation Address last July 26.

In the same CNN Philippines interview, Faustino lauded Duterte’s retracting his order to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“Now, that is retracted. That is good. We could intensify the normal trainings with them, as well as the bilateral agreements,” he added.

He said Duterte’s earlier move to abrogate the VFA was just a “small bump” in Philippine-US relations. The President notified the US of the abrogation of the VFA last year following US lawmakers’ questioning his administration’s bloody war on drugs and the cancellation of the visa of Sen. Ronald dela Rosa.

“We have had a very good relationship with the USA, even before. I consider this a small bump, what happened in the issue of the VFA,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. He also said the Balikatan joint exercises would continue.

The Chief Executive admitted that US donation of COVID-19 vaccines made him change his mind about the VFA.

Faustino is the tenth AFP chief under the Duterte administration. “I agree that there should be a fixed term for the chief of staff,” Faustino said.

AFP
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