Biazon: West Philippine Sea dispute a 2022 presidential election issue

Published May 8, 2021, 12:25 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Amid the word war between President Duterte and retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Muntinglupa Representative Rozzano ‘’Ruffy’’ Biazon on Saturday, May 8, said the West Philippine Sea (WPS) should be a high priority issue in the coming 2022 presidential elections.

TIGHT WATCH – Crew members of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel BRP Cabra monitor the departure of seven Chinese militia vessels from the Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on April 27, 2021. (Philippine Coast Guard)

“The SCS (South China Sea)/WPS issue should take a high priority as presidential candidates file their Certificates of Candidacy in five months’ time. With the way things are shaping up in that maritime domain, it’s quite clear that it’ll be a focus of foreign policy by China and the United States and its allies in the coming years,” Biazon, senior vice chairman of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, said in a statement.

“With China’s long-term plan to dominate the region pitted against the Free and Open Indo-Pacific agenda of the US and its allies, the Philippines must determine how it will navigate the seeming turbulent geopolitical waters in the coming years under a new administration,” he pointed out, recalling US President Joe Biden’s statement in his first address to the Joint Session of the US Congress, when he told Chinese President Xi that the US “will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific”.

Biazon said those eyeing the presidency “should go beyond general statements and prepare a more detailed plan of action or policy direction since the repercussions to national security go beyond the six-year term of an administration.”

“Motherhood statements don’t count for anything when literally the future of the next generation of Filipinos is at stake,” Biazon said, stressing that the Philippines must have a strategic plan to protect its interests.

“Such a Philippine strategic plan should include the consideration of having the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) focus on external defense, which would mean relying more on the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force, as well as the Philippine Coast Guard and even the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR),” he said.

Biazon said shifting to an external defense-focused plan would necessitate the reapportionment of the Department of National Defense (DND) budget from internal security operations (ISO) to external defense (ED).

“The SCS/WPS will become an issue of concern in the coming years. If we don’t refocus the AFP from ISO to external defense ED, we will continue to be disadvantaged and abused,” he said.

“It goes beyond buying equipment. It’s going to need strategic institutional reconfiguration,” he stressed.

Biazon previously said the AFP should initiate and regularize maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea in response to the swarming of Chinese Navy and Chinese Coast Guard ships and their harassment of a Filipino vessel in the Julian Felipe Reef.

“There should be no backing down now. Those patrols should be regularized. Operational cost may affect frequency, but we have to have consistency,” he said.