Advocates for National Interest (ANI), a group of retired police and military officers who were earlier rumored to be restive and planning a coup, called on President Duterte and all Filipinos to “unite and rally to our flag in assertion of our rights in the West Philippine Sea.”
Retired Gen. Eliseo Rio, also former Department of Information and Communications undersecretary said: “Today, we face a real threat to our national security. China’s transgression of Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea (is) in violation of international law jeopardizes our future. The vast resources of the West Philippine Sea present a promise of deliverance to our people but China is taking that away from us.”
Former Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, also a retired chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, made a similar call for a clear and united stance on the West Philippine Sea.
Biazon agreed that there must be a united stand on the West Philippine Sea so the Filipino people will not be confused.
“Pangalawa na hindi dapat nalilito ay ‘yung ating mga kaibigan. Yung mga kaalyado natin. Andyan ang Japan, andyan ang Australia, andyan ang buong mundo,” Biazon said
For his part, Rio said: “Let us remember how we, Filipinos, more than a century ago, stood up to challenge a much stronger power in order to be freed from subjugation and bullying.” He was referring to Spain’s colonization of the Philippines for over 300 years.
Disputing a narrative often pushed by Duterte and his officials, Rio said war is not the only way to defend the country’s sovereign rights. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio as well as lawyers, scholars and members of the political opposition have criticized what they said is a defeatist stance amid China’s repeated incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
“We are not alone. There is a range of diplomatic, legal, informational tools or soft power that can be used. We have allies, partners and friends willing to share the burden to keep a secure, stable and free-flowing trail to the South China Sea.”
“Now is the time for us to unite again as a people,” Rio added. “We must set aside any political partisan agenda and parochial interests. This conflict with China should serve to unify rather than divide us.”
Biazon said issues in the West Philippine Sea, and the South China Sea that it is part of, are of interest to the world because of the amount of commerce that passes through those waters.
“We need the allies, and let us not confuse them,” Biazon said. “And even more important is to make sure that those claiming our waters are not confused either.”
He said that mixed signals could encourage more aggressive actions in Philippine waters.
Biazon last month went to the Senate to urge lawmakers to pass a resolution urging that the National Security Council be convened to address what he called the “confusing” position of the country on the issue.
Rio accused China of employing “coercion and intimidation to expand and maintain its unlawful presence in the West Philippine Sea as seen in Julian Felipe Reef, the Ayungin Shoal, Panganiban Reef and the Bajo de Masinloc.”
“Our people should know that an information war is going on that uses psychological propaganda and media tools to make us believe that their unlawful action in the West Philippine Sea is justified. This is China’s narrative,” Rio said.