Resolve the issue first

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

AFP Chief of Staff General Ricardo Visaya clarified that there was no order from President Duterte to purchase arms and weapons from China, but to simply go "window-shopping." Unless I'm mistaken, most of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' weapons and military hardware come from the US, our longest ally and biggest provider of military aid.

But because of recent events that have revealed Duterte's seemingly disdain for the US, not only because he is being called out for human rights violations but also because of atrocities in the past that the US has not apologized for, he may be looking elsewhere, such as China and Russia, for weapons and military hardware.

But before we even consider purchasing arms and weapons from China, I believe the issue of the South China Sea dispute must first be resolved, or at least discussed thoroughly where the country is not at a disadvantage.

What if we get into contracts to purchase weapons from China, and then the whole South China Sea dispute boils over?

What if China starts building artificial islands on Scarborough or Panatag Shoal?

What happens to those contracts, which mind you, are contracts for weapons?

Does China even want to help in arming the Philippines, knowing that the issues hounding the South China Sea still exist?

I recall when Iran was still under the Shah's control, they purchased top of the line fighters from the US. But when the Ayatollah Khomeini took over, they could no longer get parts to maintain the fighters up front. Iran had to re-engineer the fighters to keep them airborne, and scavenge parts from disabled aircraft.

The country gained a victory in its case elevated at the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration. But ever since then, it is hardly mentioned by the administration, as it treads carefully in dealing with China.

In fact, it is the US that constantly calls on China to respect the decision of the PCA, mentioning it once again at the recently held ASEAN summit in Laos. ASEAN as a group has made no such statement. The PCA debunked China's "Nine-Dash-Line" claim, and has stated that the country has the right to benefit from its Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ. Yet up to now, our fishermen are not being allowed by Chinese vessels to fish in and around Panatag Shoal.

China also has repeatedly said the decision means nothing to them. That should be a big issue, but apparently, it isn't at the moment.

We have heard the administration call on the US to treat us as equals, and that we "cannot be America's little brown brother forever," as stated by DFA Secretary Yasay. But by the same token, China must also treat us as equals, and not just another small country they can intimidate and bully. Our fishermen must be allowed to benefit from the bounties of the sea within our EEZ, and not harassed or even threatened out of the area. This issue must be addressed first, before the country even considers buying weapons from China.

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