03/23/2023, 13.51
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Veteran politician Enrile wants nuclear weapons ban lifted

by Stefano Vecchia

The former president of the Senate, now legal counsel to Marcos Jr, wants the ban on nuclear weapons removed; it was included in the constitution drafted in 1986 under Cory Aquino. Some sectors of public opinion have questioned the ban given China's unilateral moves in the region’s seas.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The presence of nuclear weapons in the Philippines, banned by the country’s 1987 constitution, is back in the spotlight.

China's increasing unilateral moves in the Philippine maritime zone (as well as those of half a dozen other countries) have pushed the Southeast Asian country towards rapprochement with the United States after years of relative cool relations.

A clear example of this is the size of the joint Balikatan exercises, which will involve 17,600 troops from the two countries starting 11 April.

Not only is the Philippines engaging in closer military cooperation with its traditional US ally, whose Philippine bases were shut down in 1991 and 1992, but it is also likely to play a more central role in Washington's strategies of encirclement and containment of China, which include a nuclear deterrent among their strengths.

Quite a few people in the country now believe that it is time to rethink the ban on nuclear weapons. For those like Juan Ponce Enrile, former president of the Senate and now legal counsel to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, that measure is "the most serious and unwanted provision” in the constitution.

The reference is to Section 8, which states that "the Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”

Enrile, a veteran of Philippine politics with half a century of experience in various roles and parties, expressed his views at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments Revisions of Laws and Codes.

The 99-year-old in fact reiterated the notion held by many, including President Marcos Jr, that the Philippines needs to protect itself from military aggression.

“In the modern world today, a small country can protect itself against the superpowers if they have nuclear weapons. We should remove that restriction and make the country flexible,” he said.

“If we can afford it, we should also have nuclear weapons so that our people would not be trampled upon, let alone made a tuta (puppy) or alipin (slave) of other countries.”

Thus, "We must now remove the restriction imposed by the Cory (Aquino) administration on this country and her people not to have any nuclear weapons in the country,” he added.

The reference is to President Corazon (Cory) Aquino, the first president after the nonviolent people power revolution of February 1986, which ousted and forced into exile dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr, father of the current president.

In 1968, at the time of the first Marcos administration, when Enrile was justice secretary, the Philippines signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

In 2017 during the  Duterte administration, the Philippines signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which bans the development, testing, production, acquisition, possession and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. The Philippine senate ratified it two years ago.

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