Deployment of Filipinos cadets, military officials to China worries senators

(SUNSTAR) THE reported deployment of Filipino cadets and military officials to study and undergo training in Beijing has worried some senators amid issues of China’s aggressiveness and harassment of Philippine vessels and troops in the West Philippine Sea.

In a Senate hearing on the proposed National Defense Act and the revitalization of the Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) Program on Monday, August 7, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, chairman of the Committee on National Defense and Security, sought clarification from Defense Undersecretary Irineo Espino after receiving information from Senator Francis Tolentino that Filipino cadets were being sent to study in Beijing Military Academy.

Tolentino said the program is being funded by the Chinese government.

“May patch yun kapag graduate ka (There is a patch when you graduate), and you must learn, likewise, sing the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China. Alarming, indeed,” said Estrada.

Espino said he heard about the matter but will have to clarify it further.

Senator Raffy Tulfo slammed the program, noting that the government must put a stop to it “because it is a complete insult to the Filipinos who continue to be bullied by China.”

Earlier, Tulfo pushed for the removal of cellular towers of a telecommunications company inside the military camp that is largely owned by the Chinese government.

Tulfo also learned that some of the military equipment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including computer hardware, is donated by the Chinese government.

“Isang malaking kahangalan kung patuloy pang tatangkilikin ng ating AFP ang mga bagay na galing sa Chinese government (It would be a great folly if our AFP continues to enjoy things from the Chinese government),” he said.

Tulfo said he will file a Senate resolution for the conduct of a probe into these “alarming practices.”

The discussion cropped up amid the recent incident in the West Philippine Sea where the China Coast Guard (CCG) bombarded anew Philippine ships with water cannon while in a resupply mission for troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal over the weekend.

In a privilege speech, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri urged the Executive Department to use all viable tools such as a possible joint patrol over the West Philippine Sea with the country’s allies, and the ones they enumerated in their recently passed resolution in order to address the matter.

On August 1, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution condemning the continued incursions by China and the harassment of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea, and outlining the courses of actions for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to take for the assertion of the country’s rights in the disputed territory including:

* Bringing international attention to China’s harassment of Filipino fishermen in the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone and its continued violation of the Hague Ruling and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

* Utilizing international fora to rally multilateral support for the enforcement of the Hague Ruling and raise awareness on the real situation in the WPS.

* Engaging like-minded countries in various international organizations, meetings, and other fora to call on China to respect the Hague Ruling and the Unclos; and subject to necessity and prudence.

* Filing a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly to call for the cessation of all activities that harass Philippine vessels and violate the Philippines’ established rights in the West Philippine Sea.

* Pursuing such other diplomatic modes as the DFA may deem appropriate and necessary.

“This incident reaffirms the merit of the resolution the Senate has unanimously passed last week. That resolution illuminates the way forward. Because China contemptuously ignores protests, all the more that we have to rally the world to condemn acts which have no place in a civilized order. This is a defining moment for this Senate,” Zubiri said.

“The international system remains one of law, and in this we have the advantage. Might does not make right, and neither does it make fiction a reality,” he added.

Tolentino, Estrada, Hontiveros and Senators Ramon Revilla, Robin Padilla, Loren Legarda, Joel Villanueva, Bong Go, and Ronald dela Rosa also condemned the recent incident.

The National Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) sent a note verbale related to the incident on Monday, August 7, 2023, to the Chinese Embassy in Manila.

The DFA also summoned Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to strongly protest the actions of the CCG.

The CCG maintained that it only had taken “necessary control in accordance with the law” as the two PCG ships “illegally broke” into the waters of China’s Nansha Island.

It said it stopped the Philippine vessels carrying “illegal building materials.”

Since 2020, the Philippines has filed 400 diplomatic protests, including 34 this year, against China over incidents in the WPS. (SunStar Philippines)