Philippines bent on resolving regional conflicts through peaceful means — Estrada

(MANILA BULLETIN) Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said the country is still committed to peacefully resolving regional conflicts through dialogue and diplomatic channels.

He mentioned this amid the government’s shift from internal security to territorial defense.

Estrada earlier joined President Marcos at the 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 at the event, met with Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong. Estrada was also in attendance along with key defense and security officials from the executive branch.

“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 Philippines’ 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 of 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. 

Despite these challenges, Estrada says the Philippines is steadfast in its commitment to peaceful resolution, as anchored on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 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.