MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima said on Saturday, May 5, that the reported presence of Chinese cruise missiles in the South China Sea should serve as a "wake-up call" to the Philippines.
"This is a wake-up call not only to our armed forces but to our civilian hierarchy as well. Wake up now because we can already see and smell the People’s Liberation Army from our shore," De Lima said in dispatch from her jail cell in Camp Crame.
The opposition senator noted the silence of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on the US media reports, citing classified US military intelligence reports, that China has stationed surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles in the Spratly Islands, where the Philippines is one of 6 claimants.
“Not since the Japanese invasion of World War II has the Philippines been exposed to such a real and physical threat to its territorial integrity and national sovereignty. The Chinese cruise missiles in the Spratlys are now the single biggest existential threat to the Philippines and to Filipinos,” De Lima said.
The senator criticized the AFP’s silence on the issue, which she said was apparently consistent with the tack of the Duterte administration in dealing with its territorial row with China.
"Apparently, in line with the President’s amorous affair with China, the AFP has chosen to play the monkey that sees, hears, and speaks no evil whenever it comes to China’s aggressive escalation of military capabilities in the West Philippine Sea," she said.
The senator said that with the latest development in the South China Sea, the AFP "should stand its ground and impress upon their Commander-in-Chief in no uncertain terms that he is already pawning the security of Filipino soldiers and citizens in his effort to make his personal love affair with China a matter of national policy."
"It is time that the AFP draw the line between Duterte’s mendicant policy towards China, on the one hand, and national defense and security, on the other," she said.
"If the former is already threatening the latter, with Chinese cruise missiles now capable of hitting population centers in Palawan minutes after being launched from the Spratlys, it is time for the strategic thinkers in the AFP to step up and warn the President that the continuation of his mendicant policy towards China represents the inevitability of a perpetual threat to national existence," De Lima added.
Duterte's fiercest critic also noted that while it took China decades to build up its military instructure in the South China Sea, it only took the Philippines, under Duterte, "two years to surrender all its interests in the West Philippine Sea to China." (READ: Duterte offers '60-40' deal to China in West PH Sea joint exploration)
Palace: PH banking on 'friendship' with China
Malacañang reiterated that while it viewed the report with "concern" it was still tapping diplomatic channels to verify it.
Despite the supposed closer ties between the Philippines and China, Malacañang has yet to get a verification of the report as of Saturday.
“Everything that we have read on the papers is based on a US media report, which really we should not completely rely on, okay. So we are first verifying if it is true, and we have not had any verification,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a news briefing in Davao City on Saturday.
He also reiterated that the Philippines’ friendship with China would ensure the missiles would not be used against the Philippines.
Roque added that when exploring available diplomatic means on the issue, “we capitalize on the fact that we have very good relationship with China.”
Asked if there has been any effort to summon the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines regarding the issue, Roque said this has not been done as the Philippines was still exploring all “diplomatic possibilities.”
Photo courtesy of CSIS/AMTI and DigitalGlobe