(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines will ensure that it won’t be used by other countries for their own benefit as it continues to boost ties with its allies amid heightened geopolitical tensions, according to the nation’s newly appointed defense chief.
The Southeast Asian country’s pursuit of cooperation agreements is intended to build its capabilities in defending itself against any aggression, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said on Wednesday.
“The Philippines is a value proposition, as we call it, by its own self and not a pawn of anybody else in the geopolitical battle that is raging within our area now,” Teodoro said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself has made clear that recent military pacts are purely for defensive purposes, and admonitions to that effect must be taken “very seriously so that it does not result in any misinterpretation whatsoever,” he said.
Marcos earlier this year oversaw agreements bolstering the Philippines’ defense ties with the US, Japan and other allies. His government also allowed the US greater access to its military bases amid continuing tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea while intent on maintaining stability in neighboring Taiwan where thousands of Filipinos work.
The main job of the defense chief is to build up a strong security posture, said Teodoro, who held the same post during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “And the way that we build up our credible deterrence is our business and nobody else’s business, and whether we partner with country X or Y in order to build up our own core strength is a question for the Philippines,” he said.
Teodoro said his priorities include reforming a military pension program along with continuing efforts to modernize the nation’s armed forces. But he said he won’t recommend a resumption of peace talks with communist rebels to Marcos.
“Rebels are welcome to go back to the fold of the government...but to enter into peace talks I have always been against that,” he said.
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