Nationalist People’s Coalition Congressman Win Gatchalian urged the Philippines to increase trade with other partners and to invest in the military, emphasizing the country’s need to stand up on its own against China.
“The Philippines can explore expansion of trade with other countries to reduce its reliance on China,” Gatchalian suggested. “It will not only strengthen our relations with other trade partners but our position as well
China ranked second in the list of the Philippines’ top trading partners last year, accounting for 14.3 percent or $18.34 billion of the country’s total trade. It tails behind Japan, which accounts for 15 percent or $19.15 billion and is flanked by the US (11.2 percent or $14.4 billion total trade), Singapore (7.1 percent or $9.04 billion), and the Republic of Korea (six percent or $7.644 billion).
Gatchalian said this as he noted that the US had reiterated that it “takes no position on competing sovereignty claims.”
“That Washington specifically said it will not take any side on the issue makes it more urgent for the Philippines to strengthen both our economic and military positions while pursuing international arbitration,” said Gatchalian.
The Valenzuela City legislator emphasized that it is also crucial for the country to boost its Coast Guard and Armed Forces.
“Although it will take the Philippines at least one generation (20 years) before it can catch up with China in terms of military spending and materiel, it would help the country defend its sovereignty if we beef up our Coast Guard and Navy by investing in military hardware, training, recruitment, and the like. We must never take the China’s bullying in our very own backyard for granted,” explained Gatchalian.
Gatchalian is pushing for the passage of House Bill No. 2338, a measure which seeks to require students enrolled in colleges, universities, and technical-vocational schools to complete a two-year military and civic training program before graduation.
“By making Reserved Officers Training Course (ROTC) mandatory, we can steadily increase the ranks of our reserve force who will be ready to aid the country in times of disaster or war,” he pointed out.
Gatchalian emphasized that the Philippines has to stand on its own feet, citing the economic relations between China and the US.
“At this point, both the US and China cannot afford to go to war over the South China Sea, with the US still recovering from the financial crisis and China protecting its economic expansion,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian explained: “China has just toppled Canada as the US’ largest trade partner, and the Philippines is not even in the top 15 of such list. The US, on the other hand, is China’s second biggest trade partner last year. Despite the increasing tension in the West Philippine Sea between the two countries, both will not go to war because of their mutual economic interests. At the end of the day, it is up to the Philippines to fight for its sovereignty.”
He warned that China is executing its strategy of dominance in the West Philippine Sea and other territories of nearby ASEAN neighbors by piecemeal until no one can challenge its supremacy.
“China will push the limits, testing the extent of aggressive activities it can do in the disputed territory without its neighbors and other world powers declaring war. It is very careful and very calculated in making moves in the West Philippine Sea, and eventually these moves will accumulate enough to the extent that its dominance cannot be disputed or reversed. We must act now to strengthen all our positions to be able to block
China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea,” concluded Gatchalian. (Monica Cantilero)