By Darryl John Esguerra

NEVER BEEN PROUDER. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. visits Camp General Artemio Ricarte – Western Command Headquarters in the City of Puerto Princesa, Palawan on Sunday (June 23, 2024). In his message, the President said he has never been prouder of the military for showing the Filipino spirit of bravery and compassion in connection with the latest Chinese aggression in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. (PNA photo by Darryl John Esguerra)

CITY OF PUERTO PRINCESA – The “calm and peaceful disposition” of the Philippines should not be mistaken as a sign of submission as it remains firm in its commitment to defend its territory, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said Sunday.

Marcos made the pronouncement during his visit to Camp General Artemio Ricarte, the headquarters of the military’s Western Command (Wescom) in this city.

Known as the “Defenders and Patriots of the Last Frontier,” the Wescom has jurisdiction over the country’s maritime territory, particularly the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The President’s visit came after the June 17 incident in Ayungin Shoal where the China Coast Guard (CCG) rammed a Philippine government ship, brandished bladed weapons, and seized disassembled rifles during the country’s rotation and resupply (RORE) mission.

In his message to the troops, Marcos called on the Wescom to continue to fulfill its duty of defending the nation with integrity and respect as it has done so far.

The President reiterated that the Philippines is “not in the business to instigate wars,” noting that its “great ambition is to provide a peaceful and prosperous life for every Filipino.”

“We refuse to play by the rules that force us to choose sides in a great power competition. No government that truly exists in the service of the people will invite danger or harm to lives and livelihood,” Marcos said.

“And that is why, in defending the nation, we stay true to our Filipino nature that we would like to settle all these issues peacefully. And in the performance of our duties, we will not resort to the use of force or intimidation, or deliberately inflict injury or harm to anyone,” he added.

“But at the same time, we stand firm. Our calm and peaceful disposition should not be mistaken for acquiescence,” the President went on.

Citing the Philippines’ history of never yielding to any foreign power, he said Filipinos owe it to their forefathers to “keep the freedoms that they fought, bled and died for, and that we presently enjoy.”

“Kailanman ay hindi tayo magpapa-supil at magpapa-api kahit na kanino man (We will never be subjugated and oppressed by anyone),” he said.

“The Philippines is a responsible state. We will continue to exercise our freedoms and rights in support of our national interest, in accordance with international law,” he added.

‘Never been prouder of AFP’

The Commander-in-Chief also commended Filipino soldiers for showing “greatest restraint amid intense provocation,” saying he has “never been prouder of the brave women, men, and not just the Western Command but the entire Armed Forces.”

“You demonstrated to the world that the Filipino spirit is one that is brave, determined, and yet compassionate,” he said.

The President also led the awarding of the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the Rank of Kamagi to the 79 Filipino soldiers involved in the incident while the Order of Lapu-Lapu Rank of Kampilan was given to the injured Navy seaman.

The Order of Lapu-Lapu is conferred on officials and personnel of the government and private individuals in recognition of invaluable or extraordinary service in relation to a campaign or advocacy of the President.

Marcos assured them that the government would continue to provide all the military’s needs and look after their welfare, as well as their families.

“Kayo ang halimbawa ng isang Bagong Pilipinas. Kayo ay isa sa aming inspirasyon para lalo pang pagbutihin ang aming sinumpaang tungkulin (You are examples of a New Philippines. You are our inspiration to continue doing our best in carrying out our duty),” he said.

“Let us continue to chart the destiny of our nation as that is what we are doing now. We are charting the destiny of the Philippines, one that is strengthened by diversity but united in our quest for peace,” he added. (PNA)