Former military chief Emmanuel Bautista has spoken of his nation’s strategic – and vulnerable – location between the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The retired general has raised the alarm on China’s encroachment by fortifying the coral islands close to the Philippines. He said the Philippines’ location makes it “key terrain” for both the US and China.
Mr Bautista outlined key routes around the Philippines that could become strategically important if war were to break out between the US and China.
He identified these locations as the Bashi Channel, the Babuyan islands near Taiwan, and the straits of Mindoro, Cebu, Balabac, San Bernardino, and Surigao that all lie within the Philippine Islands.
Mr Bautista added: “If you want to influence the South China Sea, you need to control these chokepoints.”
The retired general said China would “seek to control the country”.
He added: “Assuming things get out of hand and result in a shooting war, China will seize the Philippines.”
Speaking to an online forum last week hosted by the National Youth Movement for the West Philippine Sea, he said: “If you want to influence the South China Sea, you need to control these chokepoints.”
He said the Philippines was a “grey zone” where a covert struggle for the South China Sea was being conducted.
He said China was using “grey zone” tactics to establish a foothold in Philippine territory that they can use to fully control the South China Sea.
The Philippines, Mr Bautista said, was “being affected not just militarily but in other aspects in what we call the grey zone strategy”.
Mr Bautista described these “grey zone” tactics as “the period between peacetime and wartime where you employ not just military means but also economic, information and other instruments of national power, not necessarily kinetic military in nature”.
He added: “Even as we speak, war is being fought in the grey zone.
“In information and propaganda realm, economic and other areas.”
He then warned the Philippine government to be aware of Chinese nonmilitary actions because of their security implications.
Mr Bautista said: “Many things are happening in the context of grey zone warfare, not just the influx of foreign nationals but also investments in strategic assets and strategic industries and other economic means.”
He also warned of an ominous public-private plan by a Chinese company that wishes to lease the Phillippine island of Fuga that is close to Taiwan.
Fuga Island is close to Taiwan, which China has vowed to take over.
Mr Bautista said: “We need Chinese investments for infrastructure and for our economy.
“But we cannot compromise national security.
“We need to have national policies on the control of strategic industries.
“We need to safeguard strategic assets and also safeguard against the massive influx of foreign nationalities of a single nation whether it’s China or others.”