President Benigno Aquino III honored war veterans on Valor Day, April 9, even as he noted how the enemies they have once fought are now the country's partners.
The United States and Japan, against which the Philippines had clashed before are now its "allies in pursuing peace, stability, and progress," Aquino said.
"Together with America and Japan, we have proven that the best defense against misunderstanding is close cooperation, exchange, and adherence and upholding of international law," he added.
He was speaking before a crowd which included the U.S. and Japanese ambassadors in Bataan.
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April 9 is named "Araw ng Kagitingan (Valor Day)" in the Philippines to commemorate the surrender of Corregidor to Japanese forces during World War II.
"What if these wars never happened?" Aquino ventured in his speech at the Dambana ng Kagitingan, a shrine in Mount Samat dedicated to fallen soldiers.
"Despite conflicting interests, what if each country simply chose to lay down their arms and uplift their fellowmen?" he said further.
The President went on to say that "any threat to the peace or the livelihood of any nation threatens the stability of the entire world."
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Aquino's statement comes as the Philippines is embroiled in a territorial row with China and faces threats of being pulled into the dispute between U.S. and Korea.
Japan, whose territory is also threatened by Chinese claims to disputed islands, has repeatedly called for stronger military ties with the Philippines.
The U.S. and the Philippines on April 5, meanwhile, began annual military exercises, which local officials said were vital amid the rising threat of China.
Foreign Affairs Chief Albert del Rosario on the first day of war games also said the Philippines stand ready to help U.S. should North Korea attack.
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Though urging cooperation, Aquino said: "There are times when we cannot avoid the use of force when we have to defend our countries."
He added, however, that this should not prevent nations from "pursuing the greater good for the world and for all of humanity."
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the …