PHL preparing for worst-case scenario with China over WPS

By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor

MANILA —  Short of saying that China is planning to wage war on, or mount a full-scale invasion of the Philippines, Defense Secretary Gilbert ‘Gibo’ Teodoro said at the start of this week what many had been thinking all along.

He said the country’s powerful neighbor “has no peaceful intent” where its recent actions on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) are concerned.

This grim view was spurred by the progressively aggressive behavior of China, specifically the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) with occasional help from its Navy, in recent weeks.

The latest provocation came in quick succession last weekend, with the CCG first using a water cannon on two Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ships, which were on their way to deliver food and fuel to Filipino fishermen in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal.

This was followed by a similar water cannon assault on Philippine ships barely a day later, but this time with the added use of an electronic sound device that temporarily caused Filipino crewmen to feel nauseous. The Filipinos were on their way to also deliver supplies to troops stationed at Ayungin Shoal.

No less than 46 Chinese vessels took part in the bid to block the resupply mission, the biggest number of ships that Beijing has deployed so far in the WPS, well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Because of this, the Marcos administration’s defense cluster met recently to map out a new WPS game plan against China.

The National Security Council (NSC)  said on Tuesday, Dec. 12 (Manila time) that it has taken months before they were able to finalize with other agencies the new strategy to be implemented in order to protect the country’s sovereign rights in the WPS.

“It’s the entire government bureaucracy who’s involved,” NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya told local media, adding that “”it took some time and given that we have regular rotation and supply, there’s always something that crops up.”

Now the situation has “become very clear,” Malaya also said.

At the start of the week, Malaya said the government had come up with a new national game plan on the WPS in order to reflect “some adjustments.”

Also on Monday, Teodoro said if the country allowed China to continue its “roguish behavior,” it would be “tantamount to acceptance.”

We cannot allow this to happen, the Defense chief said.

China’s intention, Teodoro said, was to claim ownership of the entire South China Sea and with it all of the WPS.

Speaking in the vernacular, he told mediamen that China “says it is theirs, but we cannot agree because it is against international law.”

“We have a plan,” he said, and “that is not to yield.”

Details of the new plan will be discussed anytime this week with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who will either approve or reject it.