Jinggoy fends off criticisms vs PH shift to territorial defense amid evolving security challenges

DESPITE the government’s focus shift from internal security to territorial defense, the country remains committed to resolving regional conflicts peacefully through dialogue and diplomatic channels, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada today said.

Estrada made the assertion as he joined President Marcos Jr. in the ongoing 21st International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, an annual defense summit addressing regional security challenges and cooperation.

The President, who delivered the keynote address, met with Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong with Estrada in attendance along with key defense and security officials from the Executive.

“Our attendance here today, on the 21st Shangri-la Dialogue shows the permanence of the need for dialogue in the face of evolving security challenges,” Estrada, chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, said.

The Philippine’s geographical advantage – being at the crossroads of major shipping lanes, providing unparallel access to key markets – has increasingly become a flashpoint in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly concerning freedom of navigation, he said.

“This necessitated the country’s defense sector shift from internal security to territorial defense, in accordance with our right to build credible deterrence amidst evolving security challenges and to uphold our right to defend our borders, populace and way of life against potential threats,” said Estrada.

Estrada said Filipinos have already endured the consequences of illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive (ICAD) measures by neighboring countries pursuing expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea.

“Our fishermen have faced harassment, driven away, and have been restricted on their livelihood within our waters. Incidents such as water cannoning by Chinese Coast Guard vessels and dangerous maneuvers at sea have endangered the lives of Filipino seafarers and crew members,” he said.

But despite these challenges, Estrada said the Philippines is steadfast in its commitment to peaceful resolution, anchored on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the binding 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea.

“The Philippine Constitution explicitly provides that we avoid conflict. The enhancement of our defense capabilities is at its core, about the preservation of peace. The development of our defense capabilities, as well as engagement with like-minded countries, is for the promotion of peace and stability in our region,” he explained.