President Marcos yesterday called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to defend the country’s territory amid a new security landscape and the South China Sea row.
Speaking to troops of the Visayas Command in Cebu, Marcos described the current geopolitical situation in the world today as “most complicated.”
He said there was a time when the Philippines did not have to worry about threats and the intensification of competition between the superpowers.
“For many, many years, we were able to maintain that peace and maintain that understanding with all of our neighbors. Now things have begun to change and we must adjust accordingly,” he said. “We know that the Philippines is just a small country but we still need to defend our territory.”
He said the Philippines used to have clear boundaries, but now these are being questioned – a situation that further highlights the military’s important mission of safeguarding the country.
“We are facing a more complex foreign situation in the Philippines. Like what I said, that in this part of the world, here in the Philippines, South China Sea, among all issues, it is said to be the most complicated geopolitical situation,” the President said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“Even if there is war in Ukraine, the South China Sea is said to be the most difficult and most complicated problem. That is why I said the mission of the AFP has changed. We need to safeguard those that we did not need to think much about previously,” he added.
The Philippines and China are embroiled in a longstanding dispute over some parts of the South China Sea, where more than $5 trillion in goods passes through every year. Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims in the area.
In 2016, an arbitral court based in The Hague invalidated China’s historic claims in the South China Sea but the Chinese government refused to recognize the ruling.
“We still need to fight for the rights of every Filipino because the Philippines is a sovereign nation, the Philippines has a functioning government and that functioning government includes the members of the military and that is why it remains to be our duty to protect the country, to protect our citizens,” Marcos said.
Marcos expressed confidence that soldiers would “always stand up to the challenges that the Philippines faces in the best tradition of the military, in the best tradition of our heroes that have gone past.”
“Once again, we continue to see heroes being made in our military. Keep up the good work. The country thanks you. The country is counting on you,” he said.
“The Armed Forces has never failed the country and a grateful Philippines knows that… The entire Philippines knows how difficult your job is and the entire Philippines is very much thankful for your service.”
The President also reiterated that the country’s foreign policy is “guided by a commitment to peace and guided by the national interest.”
He also thanked the military for helping ensure the conduct of a safe, peaceful and honest elections in 2022.