Question and Answer Session at the 21st IISS Shangri-La Dialogue

Event Question and Answer Session at the 21st IISS Shangri-La Dialogue
Location Island Ballroom, Shangri-la Hotel, Singapore

ISS EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN SIR JOHN CHIPMAN: Thank you very much for an inspiring address. You’ve been kind enough to take perhaps two or three questions.

So, I will scan the room and see if an arm is raised or a hand or another gestures. There we are. If you would stand up, sir, a microphone will come to you. May I remind you that we need a question and take no more than 60 seconds if you can as well [as] your successor.

Q: Thank you very much, Chair, [unclear] one more chance to ask question to President. Mr. President, I know that it’s in your speech, you mentioned many times about ASEAN Centrality. You reviewed the TAC which your father signed, that showed the bond of ASEAN. I think the ASEAN Centrality is very important, but it’s not — we cannot take it for granted. It becomes actually — comes from the ASEAN way principles. First, mutual respect; second, consensus-building; third, [unclear] other parties [unclear]. In my words, to put it simply, we can summarize it as “three nos” — no intervention, and no use of force, and no [unclear] hotspots. Only because of these principles strictly followed by ASEAN members and other stakeholders that we have ensured the ASEAN and East Asia [unclear] for a long-lasting peace since the end of the colonials’ rules in history. So, we [unclear] a lot. I fully agreed with you. I support the centrality of ASEAN. And even some professors like it, [unclear] he suggests: ASEAN is deserved to award a Noble Peace Prize. I agree with him.

MR. CHIPMAN: Thank you very much. I think your question is: “Do you agree with me?” So, President Marcos, please. Thank you very much.

Q: Yes, my question is: President, in the eyes of the international community, some of your Philippines’ behavior in recent day — recent times is now sounds like you really considered other parties comfort level and there’s a risk of ruining the regional long earned long-lasting peace since the end of the [unclear] history. What’s your comment on that? Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT MARCOS: Well, I cannot imagine what you must be referring to, if the reference or the allusion is to the Philippines somehow tearing apart what we have agreed on in terms of ASEAN Centrality. Quite the contrary.

I think if you examine more closely the remarks that I just made, I precisely focused on ASEAN Centrality and that the principles that are laid down, that are involved in the concept of ASEAN Centrality are something that we must use to guide us.

And if we have been distracted in the past years or so, then it’s time for us to return and remember once again what ASEAN was created for.

And that is to create an aggrupation of nations that have very many common interests and that can be — and partnerships within that multilateral organization can help each other and help the region.

And so, the Philippines still remains true to the principles that were established and upon which ASEAN was born.

And I think, as I said, that many of these things… We no longer speak of today but we must because they are as relevant today as they ever were, perhaps even more so because the global situation is a great deal more complicated than it used to be before.

I would even go far as to say: there is no such thing as a regional issue any longer. We have all experienced the unexpected effects of the war in Ukraine, of the conflict in the Middle East. And all of these…

And when we talk about the South China Sea, we have to also remember that the South China Sea is the passageway for half of the world trade.

And therefore, the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the freedom of navigation of the South China Sea is world issue.

And that is what I am opposing. And I am saying that this is — yes, it is a regional issue. But we must examine and be part of the discussion, we must include all parties in that discussion because now, it is not just ASEAN Member-States who are stakeholders and it is quite easy to see that it is in fact the entire world that have become stakeholders in the peace and stability of our region.

Q: Thank you, John. It’s [unclear] from the Irish delegation of two people, another small country. President Marcos, I’m gonna ask you a very direct question if you don’t mind which is: If Chinese Coast Guard water cannons killed a Filipino sailor, would that cross a red line? And then, can you also give us a sense of what are the actions that will trigger a request from Manila to Washington to invoke US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty? Thank you.

Q: Magandang gabi, Mr. President. Good evening, Mr. President. My question relates to your vision for the force posture of the Philippines by the end of your term. So, the Philippines has always discussed that the defense of our national territory is primarily our responsibility under the unilateral defense plan. So, what specific force packages are you eyeing particularly in the next coming years and what exactly are we to expect after Horizon 3 of the AFP Modernization Program? Thank you.

PRESIDENT MARCOS: Thank you. Well, the gentleman is referring to the Horizon 3 acquisition program. It’s the acquisition program that the — our Department of National Defense has just completed. Then, we are presently in the process of finding suppliers for all the different requirements that we have to build up our capabilities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

And, that we are hoping that… You know, these acts are just a deterrence and we — as I say to work for peace, prepare for war and there is… It is an unfortunate truth but… And that is why we have undertaken this long-term — it has been going on for many years now — this long-term plan of increasing the capabilities of our military and civilians such as the Coast Guard in the Philippines.

To go back to the first question: what would happen if there was an incident that ended up killing a Filipino serviceman, be it a Coast Guard or in the military and part of the Navy.

Well, that would be — that would certainly increase the level of response and if by a willful act on a Filipino, not only serviceman but even a Filipino citizen by… If a Filipino citizen is killed by a willful act, that is I think a very, very close to what we define as an act of war and therefore we will respond accordingly.

And our treaty partners, I believe, also hold that same standard for when the actions, with the joint action will be undertaken in support of any such incident in the Philippines.

Once we have already — we already have suffered injury, but thank God, we have not yet gotten to the point where any of our participants, civilian or otherwise have been killed.

But once we get to that point, that is certainly we would have crossed the Rubicon and certainly crossed the Rubicon. Is that a red line? Almost certainly it’s going to be a red line.

MR. CHIPMAN: Mr. President, you have helped us to set the agenda. You have provoked our thinking. You’ve spurred us to action. That is the keynote speech that we needed. That is the keynote speech that we got. You have sung for your supper. I think it’s time for you to enjoy. Thank you, sir.

PRESIDENT MARCOS: Thank you. Thank you very much.

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