By Herman Tiu Laurel

No point in building up armory: PBBM

January 23, 2023, 12:33 pm

This is one quotable quote from PBBM which he uttered during a dialogue at the World Economic Forum with the conference president Børge Brende in Davos, when asked if he would double the defense budget like Japan is doing.

PBM answered that “... the belief is that first of all, there is no point the Philippines building up it’s armory.” This so far one of the wisest and most profound, honest and I think courageous statement from PBBM that we have heard so far.

It’s an important statement because it is one of the rare spontaneous answers from PBBM that we have heard so far from him and really delivers important truths the nation must hear, understand and take to heart.

It incorporates several messages, the first of which is a truth and a fact that the Philippines has no external security threat, contrary to the alarmism Western Powers’ political, business, academic and think tank, and mainstream media networks say of the “China threat”.

It is, and should be regularly raised to remind people, a confirmation of what former National Security Adviser and retired general Hermogenes Esperon said publicly half-a-dozen times that “China is not an enemy.” The internal security threat from insurgencies needs more socio-economic-political- affirmative action more than expansion of military hardware.

The  national interest and priority of the nation is economic development and prosperity, uplifting the growing number of poor in the country and the declining material well-being of the shrinking middle class. Even the survey commissioned by the Stratbase by Pulse Asia show in 16 categories inflation and top economic issues are the top concerns and external security only the 15th.

In any war the economic and industrial capacity and relative standing of a nation is the ultimate basis for winning in any war, and the Philippines which no longer has a major steel industry and needs to import its basic food, fuel and fertilizers needs is far from having any capability to shift meager resources to raising budgets to devote to the armaments procurement.

Although PBBM went to Davos to drum up investments from the global financial oligarchy he did not succumb to their unsavory importuning for tension in the world. It was a great response to question about the Ukraine War to which PBBM replied that the Asia-Pacific nations “won’t embrace the ‘Cold War’ mentality.”

These answers bring out the real PBBM that some of his subordinates in the Cabinet have tended to derail and even contradict and misrepresent, such as the former DND OIC Jose C. Faustino who made several very pro-US statements before. Faustino, thankfully has been replaced by Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., the super manager of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Secretary Galvez also has a very good track record of working with the Chinese government’s representatives such as Ambassador Huang Xilian, successfully negotiating 5 million doses of Chinese vaccine donations and over 50 million doses of vaccine purchases at “global public goods” costs. Galvez was also head of the OPAPRU on the peace process for the insurgency.

PBBM was in Davos to seek support from the global financial giants but there is global criticism of WEF coming from such anti-poverty global movement like Oxfam (Oxford Committee for Famine Relief) which had an FB post showing 9 Philippine billionaires having $28.9-billion wealth and more than 55 million Filipinos combined – and getting richer as the 110-million Filipinos get poorer.

PBBM did not create the problem but is expected to solve this wealth disparity crisis. It’s not clear that Davos can provide solutions like the solutions from PBBM’s China state visit that provides a firm foundation for Philippine economic recovery and realize its dream of being an upper-middle income economy with per capital income of US$ 4,256 from today’s US$ 3,763.70.

PBBM is now expressing himself more spontaneously and speaking with more authenticity, bringing out his convictions. We like to see him do more of this and hope the lower echelons start picking up and echoing his message instead of sending out disparate, confusing and often conflicting messages to that of the President of the Republic.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Herman Tiu Laurel

Herman Tiu Laurel is a veteran journalist and founder of think tank PHILIPPINE-BRICS Strategic Studies.