Retired Military Officials Take a Stand: 'War Is Not the Only Option'
The issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea are not a zero-sum game. This is what retired Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, chairman of the Advocates for National Interest and former commander of the AFP Southern Command, was referring to when he said, “War is not the only option.” The Advocates for National Interest is a group composed of retired military and police officials.
In an interview with ANC, Adan urged everyone from the government to have a united stand against China’s incursions into the West Philippine Sea, which he described as affronts to our sovereignty and sovereign rights.
“What we're saying is war is not the only option. There are other instruments of national power that can be used,” Adan told ANC.
“Under our Constitution, everyone, including our commander-in-chief, the President, has the obligation of defending our sovereignty, our rights, our territory against all threats,” Adan said.
Diplomacy is one of the “other instruments of national power” the Philippines can use to its advantage. Apart from filing diplomatic protests, the Philippines can also leverage its landmark victory against China in the 2016 arbitral ruling backed by the United Nations.
The ruling alone provides the Philippines with plenty of leverage to attract other nations to its cause and to make China’s claim over the West Philippine Sea less credible. It is the reason why the European Union has voiced support for the Philippines when it called on countries to uphold the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which includes the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines.
The Philippines has also been more aggressive in beefing up its defenses and monitoring of the West Philippine Sea, as evidenced by the recent arms and equipment deals made with the U.S. and Israel. The country is also in talks with India for a possible purchase of its Brahmos missiles, the fastest cruise missile in the world. All of these are part of the AFP Modernization Program, which aims to achieve a “minimum credible defense posture” in order to deter aggressors from encroaching on the country’s maritime zones.
‘We must speak as one.’
“We must speak as one because in the past few weeks or so, there have been divided voices and some of our countrymen, unfortunately, even espouse what we call the China narrative, which seeks to justify China's position in the West Philippine Sea issue,” Adan told ANC.
China claims nearly the whole South China Sea, which includes the West Philippine Sea. China argues it has “historic rights” over the vast area enclosed within its so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” which was declared as invalid and illegal by a UN-backed international arbitral court in 2016. China’s encompassing claim over the region has resulted in tense disputes with Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
World powers, including Australia, the U.K., the U.S., and the European Union have called for countries to respect the rule of law, including the 2016 arbitral ruling that favored the Philippines.