The United States will never go to war for the Philippines.
With this statement, former defense secretary and ex-Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile expressed his support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the US.
During the weekly “Straight Talk” with the Daily Tribune, Enrile stressed that while the Philippines is strategically located in terms of the US’s island-chain of defense, it is not treated as that important by the Americans.
“The reality of this relationship is that America will never go to war for us,” Enrile pointed out.
“We are not that important enough, although we are part of the first island chain of defense of the United States that trans route from Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and Indonesia,” he added.
“I think the President, some would disagree with this, but I would say that the President of the country was correct in that decision except that it was not well-studied,” Enrile said.
With the impending abrogation of the VFA, Enrile said that the Philippines can seriously consider Japan and China to ensure security and promote mutual interests in the region.
Under the VFA, the abrogation would take effect 180 days after formal notification.
“Now, with this withdrawal of the Philippines, we have no security cover. So, we have to defend on China but there is Japan to consider,” Enrile explained.
“While Japan is our friend, they have their own national interest and we are important in the consideration of the national interest of Japan. We have no navy that can match the naval capability of Japan. Because Japan is the second biggest navy on the planet next to the United States,” he added.
Enrile said Japan would be interested in the Philippines “because Japan, is the antagonist of China.”
On the other hand, Enrile noted the importance of the Pacific to China as he cited that two of the three possible routes from Beijing to the strategic sea lane are located within the Philippines.
“As far as China is concerned, the Philippines is like a fence all the way to Japan,” he stressed.
“The first route is in the East China Sea, down to the Korean Peninsula. The second is from Hainan to Balintang Channel and Babuyan Islands, but that is very well guarded by American submarines. Then the third exit is downward between Balabag and Sabah through Sulu sea to Cebu all the way to Celebes and Oceania,” Enrile added.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles reiterated that Mr. Duterte’s decision to abrogate the VFA will further push the country to be self-reliant. It can also be more innovative, especially in producing its own weapons and military hardware like ships.
Nograles said that as part of the President’s pursuit for an independent foreign policy, he deemed it best to terminate the VFA with the Americans despite strong opposition from other sectors of society.
with FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD