By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief
MANILA – Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. had a firm message of defiance as he led the commemoration of the 125th year Philippine independence on June 12 at the Quirino Grandstand at the Rizal Park and in ceremonies in Malacanang attended by foreign ambassadors and other dignitaries.
Marcos message: The country will never bow down to any external force.
The President made the pledge amid challenges to Philippine sovereign rights in its maritime territory that includes the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) within 200 miles from Philippine coastline.
Earlier, his new defense secretary, Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr., said the Philippines will continue its military buildup as he dared China to adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to earn the Philippines’ trust.
“The heroes of our liberation would be proud to know that we have thrown off the ‘ominous yoke of domination’; never again to be subservient to any external force that directs or determines our destiny,” Marcos stressed in his Philippine Independence Day speech.
Marcos, at the same tim,e assured the Filipino people of his support to free the country from the corrosive political and social conditions that hold the nation captive.
In his speech, President Marcos said that he is honored to stand as the country’s representative to commemorate the heroism of the Filipino heroes who fought for the country’s independence.
He also urged the people to pause and reflect on how far the country had come “from that transformative event” in Philippine history.
“As a stronger country, it (China) has the bigger obligation to be magnanimous and show trust and to earn the trust of the Filipino people by conforming its activities to recognize norms of international law, which in our case is UNCLOS,” he said.
“We are talking about the arbitral award. It has already been stated by our two past presidents that our rights and our territory are defined by UNCLOS and it has been stated too that this cannot be frittered away or bargained away by passages of administration or passage of time,” Teodoro added.
The defense chief said the Philippines is a responsible and mature nation and is not a puppet of anyone, when asked whether the “balance of scales” in dealing with the United States and China has changed and where the country stands regarding this issue.
“My role is to articulate our policy clearly and also to avoid any misinterpretation of our international engagements with our treaty partners. And that role I reiterate is to help create as a value proposition the Philippines has a strong parity partner in defending itself, because I mean the Philippines is important not only to the United States but also to China, it is important to other countries too,” he said in a television interview.
In line with his goal of presenting the Philippines as a value proposition, Teodoro said we should articulate that “we are responsible, we are mature, we are not puppets of anyone.”
Teodoro also emphasized that he will not fall into the trap of siding with “one camp or the other.”