The region’s big bully is once again displaying its disrespect for its smaller neighbors and their frontiers, Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian said, denouncing China’s reported reclamation work on Mischief Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
“This is China’s wanton disregard of our rights and a blatant disrespect of our country. Their notion of being a super power is now being expressed through coercion and creeping invasion of its neighbor’s territories,” Gatchalian, a majority member of the House committee on foreign affairs, said.
The Department of National Defense or DND earlier confirmed that China is building a wall at Mischief Reef, which is located inside the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
“What they are doing is like building a wall. They want to enclose all the resources in that area,” said DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez.
According to the DND, the “China wall” will cause nonstop fishing by the Chinese from the People’s Republic of China. It will also enable the Chinese Navy and Coast Guard to check all vessels passing through the area.
The DND report confirms Gatchalian’s suspicion that the reclamation is part of China’s strategy to exert military and economic supremacy in this part of the region.
“These are not mere reefs and rock formations. This area is strategically located to thwart any military action against China and curb the flow of trade in the West Philippine Sea,” Gatchalian explained.
The Philippine government already called on China anew to stop its reclamation activities in the South China Sea amid the destruction of 300 acres of coral reef systems.
“We call on China to stop the reclamation activities and to be mindful of its responsibilities as a claimant state and an important member of the international community,” the Department of Foreign Affairs or DFA said in a press statement.
The DFA said the reclamation activities are causing coastal states to lose $100 million yearly.
“China’s massive reclamation activities are causing irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea,” the DFA added.
Gatchalian warned that allowing China to continue its reclamation work will not only spell instability for the region but a threat to future generations.
“This generation might not feel the brunt of this reclamation project. But the next generations to come will perpetually be at threat,” he said.
The Valenzuela City lawmaker has been pushing for the revival of the Reserved Officers’ Training Corps or ROTC as a means of inculcating in the youth patriotism and nationalism in the wake of renewed activities of the Chinese military in the contested Kalayaan Group of Islands, known internationally as the Spratlys.
Gatchalian said making ROTC mandatory for all male students enrolled in colleges, universities, and technical or vocational schools is in line with the Constitutional provision, which states that “the Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal, military or civil service.”
Under House Bill No. 2338, Gatchalian wants the ROTC to form part of the curriculum of all college degree courses as well as technical or vocational courses, and shall be a pre-requisite for graduation. Students shall be required to complete the ROTC for an academic period for two years.
“Now is the opportune time to re-institutionalize the basic military and officer training for our tertiary students. Through this legislation, they will undergo the appropriate training to ensure their readiness to respond to the call of service,” Gatchalian said.
He also said it is the duty of every citizen to safeguard the security of the State and the sovereignty of our country, especially in the light of the creeping occupation of the Kagitingan Reef and Mischief Reef by the People’s Liberation Army of China.
“Laws are replete with policies on service to countrymen, and these callings must now be instilled in our consciousness to be active in our civic duty, to prepare ourselves in case of a projected or actual need, including a possible war over the Kalayaan Group of Islands,” Gatchalian, a majority member of the House foreign affairs committee, said.
In pushing for H.B. 2338, Gatchalian noted that prior to its being an optional requirement of the National Service Training Program or NSTP, ROTC graduates constitute roughly about 75 percent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers corps, and has since been the breeding ground for prominent alumni who became commanding officers of the Army, including chief of staff of the AFP.
“The ROTC program will bolster confidence in our military preparedness and capability while at the same time provide our country with support from student-cadet reservists and potential commissioned officers,” Gatchalian concluded. (R. Burgos/Monica Cantilero)