Press Release
April 15, 2021

Dispatch from Crame No. 1057:
Sen. Leila M. de Lima on the AFP and the latest developments in WPS


The recent occupation of Julian Felipe reef by China's naval militia's fake fishing boats has revealed the confusion within the Duterte administration whether to treat it as such or to simply ignore it altogether. The former is the position of the officials that matter when it comes to foreign affairs and national defense, i.e., Sec. Teddyboy Locsin and Delfin Lorenzana. Their apparent strong opposition to the Chinese occupation coincides with five other major incidents transpiring in the region: The entry of the Theodore Roosevelt carrier group into the South China Sea; the second breakout from the first island chain of the Liaoning carrier group from the East China Sea into the Pacific; the increased intrusion of the PLA Air Force into Taiwanese airspace; the declaration of US Secretary of State Blinken reiterating the trigger factors of the US-PH Mutual Defense Treaty; and the start of the annual Balikatan exercises of the AFP with American forces in the Pacific.

On the other hand, the latter position is held by, among others, the commander of the WesCom itself, Vice Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez, and probably the other AFP branch commanders under the WesCom. This latter position reflects Duterte's policy of subservience to China, instead of defending the Philippine entitlements in the West Philippine Sea against a Chinese invasion.

Instead of following the lead of Lorenzana, the WesCom commander would rather speak and make excuses for the Chinese Navy missile boats that chased down ABS-CBN reporter Chiara Zambrano and her crew. Later, as if realizing the cowardly and shameless statement uttered by its WesCom commander, the AFP awarded Zambrano with a token recognition.

This is how confused this government and its AFP is when it comes to China. Not even the presence of an American carrier force right at China's doorstep sending signals for China to stand down has consolidated the AFP's resolve to defend the country and for once, just for once, have the balls to stand up to China. Even with Blinken's declaration, US aircraft carriers with the US Navy's latest F35B stealth fighters in the WPS, and the Balikatan on our own shores, apparently the AFP cannot yet shake off its terror over China that it has imbibed and inherited from Duterte.

While everyone in the world, including China's own generals, are warning Xi Jinping that he is overstretching in confronting the US and the Philippines in the WPS, Taiwan in the Straits, and Japan in the East China Sea, all at the same time and without any ally or friend whatsoever (except Duterte), the AFP still thinks it is worth it to continue to support Duterte's policy of grovelling before China. For some reason, the AFP has completely accepted the story being sold by local pro-China opportunists that the future of the country and the region lies with China as the sun supposedly sets on the American empire in the Pacific.

Regardless of the accuracy of this story, the fact is China remains alone in the world, as every western ally, from India to Europe and Australia, Japan and South Korea are sending ships to the South China Sea to send a message to China. And that message is simply this: they will not allow China to invade Taiwan or take control of the South China Sea. That simply will never happen.

For all their education and training at the premier military institution of the country, our PMAers in the AFP seem to have lost all lessons on strategic thinking, and are now bitterly confined to a parochial world-view limited by the dictates of the hand that feeds them. Hopefully, with the end of Duterte next year, the AFP can immediately regain its shaky loyalty to the Republic, and that the damage Duterte has wreaked on the institution has not yet become irreversible. That might be wishful thinking, but we have no option but to rehabilitate this present general staff of the AFP because our country has only one AFP who will defend us against China.

Either that, or we start accepting our fate in this region as just another one of China's satellites after Laos and Cambodia. ###

(Access the handwritten copy of Dispatch from Crame No. 1057 here:

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