Noy calls for unity amid threats to Phl

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MANILA - With the country embroiled in territorial disputes with its neighbors, President Aquino called on Filipinos to unite and defend the nation’s freedom and sovereignty, saying “we have no other desire than to take care of what is rightfully ours.”



Aquino made the call in a speech during the celebration of the 115th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila last June 12.


Independence Day rites were also held in Rizal Park in Manila and at the Barasoain Church in Bulacan.


Vice President Jejomar Binay led the Rizal Park rites while Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. presided over ceremonies at Barasoain Church.


“Aggression does not run in our veins, but neither will we back down from any challenge. And while we will protect our rights and continue to build consensus with all parties to promote calm and understanding, we must also increase the capabilities of our Armed Forces,” he said.


The President did not specify the potential threats to the country’s sovereignty but he was likely referring to China, whose forces have established presence in Philippine waters.


“Together with all these, we must also think of the lives of the millions of Filipinos that may be affected by the decisions we make as leaders,” Aquino said.


“We have never trampled upon the rights of others. We have not claimed or demanded territory that clearly belongs to another. We have neither condescended upon nor oppressed others,” he said.


“Harming others or sowing discord with other countries is not in our history. Similarly, it has never been the policy of the Philippines to take advantage of other countries. If there has been disagreement, the whole world has witnessed our willingness to sit down and conduct dialogues in a peaceful manner,” the President said.


“The only thing we have asked is that our territory, rights, and dignity be respected, in the same way that we have respected the territory, rights, and dignity of other peoples,” he said.


“We are doing this precisely because we know that this is the key to maintaining stability, and by doing so, to continue the journey towards widespread and lasting progress, not only in our country, but also in our region and in the whole world,” he added.


In a vin d’ honneur later at Malacañang, Aquino appealed to the diplomatic community to “continue working with us in realizing the full potential of the Filipino people and in finding solutions to the challenges that we collectively face.”


“To the continued partnership between all our nations – may we always endeavor to promote peace, amity, and unity for the advancement of humankind,” he said.


Bonifacio’s message


At the Liwasang Bonifacio, the President said Filipinos should follow an exhortation from the father of the Revolution, that they “must be of one will and one mind” in fighting oppression and injustices.


“This is the time for the light of truth to dawn; this is the time for us to show that we have our own sentiments, our own honor, our own shame and solidarity,” Aquino quoted Bonifacio as saying.


“Let us not wait 300 years, or three decades, or even three years, before we resolve to come together and gain freedom from hunger, poverty, or whatever threatens our sovereignty and security,” Aquino said.


“It is not right for Filipinos to have to stand suffering for even one minute longer,” he said, apparently referring to the long years Filipinos had endured under colonial rule.


“If it had only been possible, these problems should have been solved yesterday. But since this is impossible, let’s do it today. This is the time for our spirits, minds, and voices to become one. This is the time for us to offer our time and our strength. This is the time for us to act as one nation, so that we can realize our collective aspirations for the motherland,” the President said.


“I know that we can do this because we have the blood of heroes, and if (national hero Jose) Rizal, or Bonifacio, or even Ninoy or Cory asks, ‘Filipino, what have you done for your flag and your countrymen?’ We will meet their gaze, unafraid, and say, ‘This is what I have done for my country; I have given my heart and soul to uplift my nation,’” Aquino said.


“We witnessed the raising of the flag in front of the monument of the Katipunan’s Supremo to celebrate the 115th anniversary of the proclamation of the country’s independence. It is clear what his statue represents: that it is an honor to risk one’s life for one’s country; that those who have contributed to our freedom can hold their heads high. At the same time, Bonifacio’s stern gaze seems to pose a challenge to all of us: Filipino, what have you done for your flag and for your fellowmen?” Aquino said.


“The time of revolt against the oppression of colonizers has come and gone: Rizal and Bonifacio, the Katipuneros, and other Filipino heroes have already done their part. They did this firm in the knowledge that no one else was going to fight for our rights; no one else was going to work for the future of our country; no one else would push for our freedom – no one but we Filipinos,” he said. “No one else. Thanks to them, we have been declaring our freedom to the world for one hundred and fifteen years,” the President said.


Stronger defense


In the next five years, the President said the government is expected to spend P75 billion for national defense as a result the New Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act.


“In truth, even before this Act was passed, in the space of one year and seven months, the P28 billion in funds that we allotted to the AFP modernization program came close to equaling the P33 billion allotted to the same program by the past three administrations,” he said.


“This signifies our drive, not only to modernize our armed forces, but also to raise the dignity and morale of our soldiers,” he pointed out.


He stressed the “government remains aware of its responsibility to protect” freedom and sovereignty.


“This is why we have always stood up for our rights as a country with its own sovereignty, as a nation that spilled its blood in the name of freedom, as a Philippines with its own flag, equal to all others. It is clear: While the government is responsible for the security of our country, it is also our duty to focus on the primary needs of the people,” he said.


He also said thorough planning, not impulsive decision-making, is key to hurdling challenges. “Only this will result in meaningful solutions to our most significant problems,” he said.


Aquino said it was through such approach that the government was able to put up 21,800 houses under phase one of its housing program for soldiers and policemen and 14,000 more under phase two. More than 31,000 more units are expected next month, he said.


In a statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) voiced its commitment to defend the country’s sovereignty.


“We, the men and women of the Armed Forces, pledge anew our commitment to the Filipino nation. With honor and pride, we vow to fulfill our duties as protectors and defenders of Philippine sovereignty and integrity,” AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said.


“For over a century, our revolutionary forefathers braved any battles to break us from any bondage; and sacrificed lives for our country to stand proud among the free nations of the world,” he said.


A defense official, for his part, said that while the AFP needs more modern weapons and equipment, it should also invest in human capital, including reviving a mandatory citizen’s military training.


“Weakness and unpreparedness, these are the best invitations to intrusion,” Ernesto Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, told reporters. PVAO is under the defense department. Carolina noted that even small countries like Singapore have strong armed forces.


“We have to prepare not only through modernization because for me, human capital is more important, how we are investing on young people,” he said.


“In nearby countries, they require a two-year mandatory military service. So a few years from now, they will edge us out, pound for pound, because we did not prepare our 20-year-olds,” he said. “We will lag behind in terms of physical and mental discipline.”


Correcting mistakes


At the Barasoain Church in Bulacan, Executive Secretary Ochoa said that by acknowledging historical truths and correcting the mistakes of the past, Filipinos need not shed blood to show the world true heroism.


“Each generation has its own and distinct stake for the country. But we don’t have to go through a bloody revolution or war for heroes to come out in our midst,” he said. “Only the truth can set a person or a country free.”


“What is of paramount importance is that the sanctity of the Philippines’ history has never been tainted with any wrongdoing, and that we are able to correct at the soonest possible time the mistakes or wrong chapters in our history,” he said.


“It is also important that the truth and only the whole truth should prevail over our country’s history, particularly those events where our true heroes struggled to fight for our long-cherished freedom,” Ochoa added.


“We must love our freedom. I believe that the country and its people are now free. We will not have this kind of celebration if we are not yet free,” Binay, for his part, said.


Meanwhile, militant groups led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) assailed the “sham independence, and sham economic growth” under the Aquino administration.


“Despite the repeated claims of economic growth, our people remain mired in crisis. The chronic joblessness is just one of the problems created by our lack of economic sovereignty,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes in a protest action held at the Bonifacio monument in Tutuban in Manila.


“Our economy is still controlled by and in the service of foreign big business and their local partners. Economic activity is geared towards meeting international demands rather than meeting domestic requirements for genuine development,” Reyes said. “Job creation is dictated by external factors. Our country cannot be truly free when its people are under the bondage of poverty and underdevelopment arising from foreign dictates,” he said. – (The Philippine Star)

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