a person wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: eliseo rio eliseo rio

Former Information and Communications Technology undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr., a retired general, said on Friday that war was not the only option left for the Philippines in dealing with the West Philippines Sea dispute.

“We are not alone. There is a range of diplomatic, legal, informational tools or soft power that can be used,” said Rio, who was speaking in behalf of the Advocates for National Interest, in a video message aired on Senator Risa Hontiveros’ Facebook page Friday.

“We have allies, partners, and friends willing to share the burden to keep a secure, stable, and free-flowing trail to the South China Sea,” he added.

On the eve of the Philippine Independence Day, Rio has called for unity among the Filipino people to assert the country’s rights in the WPS.

The retired military officer tagged China’s aggression in the country’s territorial waters as a “real threat to our national security” and violation of international law which jeopardizes the nation’s future.

“China’s creeping aggression must be stopped. Now is the time for us to unite again as a people. We must set aside any political partisan agenda and parochial interests. This conflict with China should serve to unify rather than divide us,” he said.

The former DICT official also said that the Philippines has maritime entitlement in the WPS by the virtue of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS and customary.

He cited the country’s historic win against China before The Hague in 2016.

Rio further emphasized that the protection of the Philippine sovereignty and territory is a national obligation.

“Our people should know that an information war is going on that uses psychological propaganda and media tools to make us believe that their unlawful action in the West Philippine Sea is justified,” he said.

“This is China’s narrative. Let us take the side of the Filipino people. Our citizens must not lead themselves and unwittingly act in support of the China narrative,” he added.

Rio was joined by another retired general, former Senator Rodolfo Biazon, who reiterated his call to convene the National Security Council and make a clear position on the issue.

“Itong problema natin sa West Philippine Sea ay hindi lang problema ng kasalukuyang administrasyon. Ito ay haharapin din ng susunod na administrasyon kung sino man siya,” he said.

(This problem in the WPS is not just the current administration's problem. The next administration, no matter who leads it, will also have to face this matter no matter.)

“Sana itong susunod na administrasyon ay maliwanag para hindi tayo nalilito, hindi nalilito ang ating mga kakampi at hindi maliito ang ating kalaban,” Biazon added.

(We hope that the next administration will be clear on its stand on the issue so that we will not be confused, along with our allies and even our enemy.)

Last March, hundreds of Chinese vessels were spotted inside the Philippine EEZ near the Julian Felipe Reef west of Palawan.

The Philippine government has filed numerous diplomatic protests to demand the withdrawal of the Chinese ships from the area. — DVM, GMA News

This article Ex-DICT Usec. Rio says war not only option left to defend the West Philippine Sea was originally published in GMA News Online.

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