Veteran lawmakers: PH must forge military alliances with other nations to defend West PH Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) – Veteran lawmakers running in the 2022 senatorial polls emphasized the need for the country to forge miltary alliances with neighboring Southeast Asian countries and first-world nations to defend its sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

Former Senator JV Ejercito said that while the country must send its most modern military equipment in the disputed waters, they cannot match what China has.

Beijing refuses to honor Manila's victory in the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling, which nullified the Asian superpower's expansive claims in the South China Sea.

Ejercito added that military alliances with the country's Southeast Asian neighbors and nations like the United States, Australia, and Japan are vital in maintaining South China Sea as a zone of peace and free travel.

"We won the arbitration in The Hague. It is enshrined in our Constitution that we have to protect and fight for our territorial integrity at all costs," Ejercito said during CNN Philippines' Senatorial Forum on Sunday.

The son of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada also said the country must emulate Vietnam's strong stance against Chinese vessels entering their territorial waters.

Several Filipino vessels have been involved in incidents with Chinese ships, which entered areas that are within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Also in the forum, reelectionist Sen. Richard Gordon explained the country needs those military alliances as it is risky to have a "one-on-one" confrontation with China.

"China has a very big influence, kaya tagilid tayo dyan [that's why we can't win]. Ang attitude natin [Our attitude should be] we cannot deal with China one-on-one," Gordon said.

Gordon said the country's assertion of its sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea will help preserve our aquatic resources, boost food security, and protect the livelihood of Filipino fishermen.

Sorsogon Gov. Francis "Chiz" Escudero also said Manila must demand the inclusion of the 2016 arbitral ruling victory in the South China Sea code of conduct between Southeast Asian countries and Beijing.

Escudero said the Philippines is having a hard time asserting the international tribunal ruling because it also affects the interests of other claimant Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea.

"Hindi man natin kayang ipatupad ang arbitral ruling laban sa China, dahil malayong mas makapangyarihan ang China kumpara sa atin, dapat hindi natin bitiwan o pakawalan ang interes at karapatan natin sa mga karagatan at islang iyan," Escudero said in the televised forum.

[Translation: We may not be able to enforce the arbitral ruling against China, because China is more powerful than us, but we should not let go or relinquish our interests and rights in the seas and islands.]

The country has filed a number of diplomatic protests against Beijing's incursion in areas inside the archipelago's EEZ.