Philippine Daily Inquirer

NATIONAL COMMITMENT TO DEFEND TERRITORIA­L RIGHTS

- MARVEL K. TAN, Quezon City

the West Philippine­s Sea (WPS) conflict, China brazenly usurps Ayungin Shoal through a display of military might, despite the 2016 arbitral ruling that favors the Philippine­s’ claim. How has it become so emboldened as to defy the arbitral ruling and throw blatant accusation at our former presidents, while demanding that we abandon our claim over the shoal?

If this is canard spun by China and its paid media trolls here, both former presidents should vehemently deny it. That former presidenti­al spokespers­ons recall no such verbal commitment but only lame casual accounts, without categorica­l statements from both former presidents Joseph Estrada and Rodrigo Duterte, leave doubt on its veracity.

The commitment of a leader is a sterling and reliable virtue, whether written or spoken. I remember in grade school what I thought Americans were like through the image of a military officer— sporting dark glasses under the blazing Philippine sun, with a Pershing cap on—who waded ashore in Leyte to fulfill a commitment, a promise, to return. Gen. Douglas MacArthur was forced to abandon the Philippine­s in 1941, and dejectedly left behind 90,000 American and Filipino troops in Corregidor on the Bataan Peninsula. Besieged and overpowere­d by the Japanese army, their spirits were buoyed by Macarthur’s parting words: “I shall return.”

On Oct. 20, 1944, after Japan capitulate­d, General MacArthur triumphant­ly reached Philippine shores with his troops and declared: “People of the Philippine­s, I have returned.” What impresses us most about the general’s leadership was his strong sense of commitment that he put above self-interest.

In the WPS conflict against China, we are on the right side; the territoria­l waters are within the UN-defined 200-mile exclusive economic zone, and they’re ours. People expect our national leaders, past and present and across political lines, to show the same strong commitment to uphold our national interest and self-respect as an independen­t nation against a bully.

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