Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to China’s reported installation of missile systems on artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), also known as South China Sea (SCS).
De Lima warned AFP that the deployment of Chinese cruise missiles capable of hitting Palawan island is the “single biggest threat to national security in recent decades.”
“With news that China has already stationed surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles in the Spratly Islands, the AFP now owes the Filipino people a response to these reports of this latest threat to national defense and security,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 299.
Recently, US media reports revealed that China has quietly deployed cruise ship missiles and surface on three islands in the Spratly Islands, namely Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef, Mischief (Panganiban) Reef and Subi (Zamora) Reef, where the Philippines is one of six claimants.
De Lima lamented how AFP has maintained its silence whenever it comes to China’s aggressive escalation of military capabilities in the WPS, saying it is high time for the military forces to draw the line between Duterte’s mendicant policy towards China and the country’s national defense and security.
“With Chinese cruise missiles now capable of hitting population centers in Palawan minutes after being launched from the Spratlys, it is time for the strategic thinkers in the AFP to step up and warn the President that the continuation of his mendicant policy towards China represents the inevitability of a perpetual threat to national existence,” she said.
The former justice secretary reminded the Armed Forces to take necessary actions in relation to Chinese’s militarization in WPS because it is only a matter of time before Duterte surrenders all other islands and shoals still currently held by the AFP.
“When that time comes, will the AFP still see a line being crossed, or has the line already disappeared entirely, and that to our supposed defenders there is no longer any line of defense, only that of utter surrender and abject indifference to the future of our territorial integrity and national sovereignty?” she asked.
“Deployment of missiles capable of hitting our military bases in Palawan within minutes was supposed to be one such line. That line has already been crossed. Up to what point will our AFP continuously draw that line backwards before it entirely disappears, and all that will remain is a checkpoint sign written in Chinese characters?” she added.
De Lima said the reported presence of Chinese cruise missiles in the WPS should serve as a wake-up call not only to the AFP but also to the entire Filipino nation.
“Wake up now because we can already see and smell the People’s Liberation Army from our shores,” she said.
The former justice secretary earlier said Duterte is indirectly giving up Philippines’ claims over the Spratlys Islands, Scarborough Shoal, and the country’s entire Exclusive Economic Zone in the WPS by failing to stand against Chinese incursion in the WPS.
Even with the decision of United Nations (UN) Arbitral Tribunal invalidating China’s claim and ruling that Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over WPS, China refuses to comply with the verdict.