MANILA – Former President Fidel V. Ramos believes the Philippines can go on an “economic war” with China but only on a tiny scale after Beijing’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea.
“If we are talking about war on a tiny scale, maybe more on economics than anything else, yes we can go to war because it’s a reciprocal thing,” he said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart.
“But if you’re talking about global war with the use of weapons of mass destruction, like nuclear systems and ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, that’s something else,” he added.
He said the economic war against China “on a very small basis” could be in the form of buying and promoting “what we can manufacture better than China.”
Ramos said reports that China’s Coast Guard fired 7 times at a Philippine fishing boat near a Chinese-occupied section of the Spratly archipelago last March 27 is “pure harassment [by] Chinese forces.”
He said that while the order to shoot could just be guidance by a local commander, there is also a possibility that the action is guided by national policy.
“This is where President Duterte must come in, to make sure that the Chinese president himself who is his counterpart in terms of our dialogue partners must also toe the line. We are all going to be signatories…” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that he continues to honor his agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to ease tensions between their countries.
“I would like to assure China and this is what I have committed to do when I was there, that we will talk as friends, we cannot go to war because we cannot afford it,” Duterte said.
He also said the Philippines cannot stop China from building facilities in Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) in the disputed South China Sea. “We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano eh,” Duterte said.
Ramos said Duterte is not necessarily waiving the country’s sovereignty with statements where he “assured” China of talking as friends.
“I don’t see that way, but I think he is just putting out big words in a very braggadocio way to influence other members of ASEAN,” he said.
However, he said member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations should ratify a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea to de-escalate tensions in the territory.
The former president also urged the 10-nation bloc and its partners to shun military spending and invest instead on maritime law enforcement and saving lives on sea.
“Instead of spending so much on arms race, we’re spending too much on that already…we spend it for maritime law enforcement,” he said.
“At the end, we must train our people to recover, to save, to rehabilitate, instead of just killing them,” he added.