AMID continuing spats over the disputed Spratly Islands, former Senate President and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile said that the Philippines should develop it’s nuclear capabilities to improve its defense against possible threats in the long term, while resorting to negotiations in the short term particularly with a military behemoth like China.
Enrile, who is running for a fifth term in the Senate, said this in response to a statement made by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang that China has “sufficient historical and legal basis” to claim the disputed area as part of its territory.
“That is the position of China. That’s why they have the 9-dash line,” Enrile said during an interview on CNN Philippines on Monday.
The “historical basis” of China’s claim, Enrile pointed out, stems from the conceived territory of China prior to the formation of the Philippines as a nation.
“Now, by the way, the only country in this part of the world that had a navy before, during the time of Columbus and Magellan, was China... And they were plying these parts, so that is the basis of their claim. In fact, at that time, there was no notion of a country like Republic of the Philippines uniting the broken islands of this archipelago. We were, if I remember my history correctly, [governed] by sultans and datus separately,” said the former Defense Minister.
Despite the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in favor of the Philippines in 2016 on the case of the South China Sea, Enrile said that the decision could only be implemented “by force”.
“Those things can be enforced only by force. You can’t go to the [international court] to enforce the edict or decision of any international agency like the arbitration court. In the game of nations, it is always the law of force,” Enrile said.
As a solution, the veteran lawmaker is urging government to negotiate with China while also improving its military capabilities in the long term.
“[We must] negotiate. We cannot go to war. Are we willing to lose ten million people? We can never win,” he warned.