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Opinion

We will not give up one square inch of our territory

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez - The Philippine Star

There is absolutely no question that 99.9 percent of Filipinos support our territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea. The most loudly applauded portion during the SONA of the President – with a standing ovation – was when he said that not a square inch of the country’s territory will be relinquished.

“On the area of foreign policy, I will not preside over any process that will abandon even a square inch of territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power,” President Marcos declared, clearly stating that “we will not waver. We will stand firm in our independent foreign policy, with the national interest as our primordial guide.”

Unquestionably, this is what Filipinos wanted to hear from the president’s State of the Nation Address, as reflected in a Pulse Asia survey with results showing that 89 percent of Filipinos believe that President Marcos should assert our rights over the West Philippine Sea as stipulated in the July 2016 arbitral ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The continuance of our independent foreign policy stance is clearly the path we should take, with the Philippines taking the position that we shall “continue to be a friend to all and an enemy to none,” maintaining good relations with the rest of the world, and recognizing that partnerships and alliances will provide the stability that all nations will need to emerge into the new global economy. “The Philippines will continue to promote stronger and multi-faceted relationships with all our partners around the world,” President BBM stressed.

In other words, we are open to talks and negotiations, but we will never give away what is ours.

In the most recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia from June 24-27 regarding awareness and trust involving selected countries, the United States emerged as the nation that Filipinos believe should be trusted the most, obtaining a trust rating of 89 percent, followed by Australia at 79 percent and Japan at 78 percent, with China coming in last at 33 percent or the least trusted by Filipinos.

The survey results are not really surprising considering that over the past several years, China has been the least trusted nation in the yearly surveys conducted by Pulse Asia. At the heart of the issue is the growing aggression of China, which comes in stark contrast with the affirmation of support expressed by the United States when it comes to protecting our sovereignty.

This was underscored by US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro during the welcome reception I hosted for him and new US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson last Wednesday, with the First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos gracing the occasion with her presence. I invited a cross section of society with businessmen, Cabinet officials, ambassadors from allied countries, and Navy officials from both the Philippines and the United States.

In his remarks, Secretary Del Toro noted that for the past 71 years, “our two nations have worked collaboratively to address the complex security environment in the Indo Pacific, consistently demonstrating that we are stronger together,” referencing the recent Balikatan exercises between the Philippines and the US that is the largest so far, and the ongoing RimPac (Rim of the Pacific) exercise – the biggest international maritime exercise that happens every two years – with 26 countries including the Philippines taking part this year.

Reaffirming the assurance made by State Secretary Antony Blinken that the United States is fully committed to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, Secretary Del Toro was unequivocal when he said – “Let me be very clear: an armed attack on the Philippines – may it never come – either on the armed forces, public vessels or aircraft operating anywhere in the South China Sea, will fall within the scope of our treaty.”

As he rightfully pointed out, the US alliance with the Philippines is critical to both nations’ mutual security and prosperity, and that shared democratic values serve as a foundation to enhance the cooperation between the two nations.

“We will be steadfast, working by your side, to ensure that the Philippines never – and I say never – has to give up one square inch of sovereignty and territory,” he said, echoing the pronouncement of President Marcos.

For her part, Ambassador Carlson – who went through what must have been one of the fastest nomination processes since President Joe Biden wanted an ambassador on the ground “at the start of this pivotal time under the administration of President Marcos” – emphasized that the US values the Philippines as “an equal, sovereign partner,” supportive of the leadership that champions “the primacy of international law in the South China Sea” and rejecting the view that might makes right by upholding the international tribunal ruling.

“In all levels of our government, we are committed to partnering with you on shared priorities, and we are invested in bringing a new vigor in collaboration to US-Philippine ties. We are ready to work together across the board, including on security, post-Covid recovery, clean energy, agriculture, democracy and human rights, and all of the things that President Marcos mentioned in the amazing State of the Nation Address which was so eloquently and expertly executed,” Ambassador Carlson said.

She also disclosed that senior Department of State, Department of Defense and senior Congressional leaders are all scheduled to visit, underscoring the importance the US places on its relationship with the Philippines.

Given these encouraging developments regarding the alliance between the US and the Philippines, I could not agree more that our state of the nation is not only sound, but strong and stable.

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Email: [email protected]

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

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