Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Monday, July 25, 2011

Aquino to China: Filipinos will defend territory

President Benigno Aquino III warned China in a major national speech Monday that the Philippines was ready to defend its Spratly Islands claims by acquiring more weapons and would elevate the territorial feuds to a U.N. tribunal.

In his State of the Nation Address to Congress, Aquino also announced a new chief anti-graft prosecutor and said his year-old government plans to file its first major corruption case this year against corrupt officials and their accomplices. He did not name the officials but vowed punishment for the guilty.

"We do not wish to increase tensions with anyone, but we must let the world know that we are ready to protect what is ours," Aquino said, drawing loud applause at the packed House of Representatives. The address also was televised live to the nation.

Aquino's tough rhetoric echoed past criticisms of China over the Spratlys, so may have been meant to project him as a strong leader dealing firmly with an issue about which many Filipinos feel emotional, political analyst Ramon Casiple said.

"He was playing to a domestic audience. It's more of asserting to the people that he's a leader," Casiple said, adding that Aquino's reiterated position was unlikely to surprise China.

Aquino noted the efforts to bolster the military's capability, citing the recent purchase of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and plans to acquire more patrol vessels, helicopters and weapons in deals he guaranteed would be aboveboard. (more)