Don’t sell out to Chinese, opposition solons warn Duterte
President Duterte must take care not to sell out to the Chinese, opposition lawmakers said on Tuesday.
Mr. Duterte was expected to arrive in Beijing on Tuesday night with a large business delegation for trade and investment talks with Chinese leaders, the first top-level meeting between the two countries since relations soured over a maritime dispute in the South China Sea.
The President said before leaving for Brunei on Sunday on the first leg of his second official trip since coming to office in July that he planned to bring up an international tribunal’s ruling in favor of the Philippines during his talks with the Chinese.
But Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay on Monday said that the ruling would not be brought up as they are “still continuing to build trust and confidence between the two countries.”
Speaking at a news forum on Tuesday, Capiz Rep. Emmanuel Billones said Mr. Duterte should ensure the protection of Philippine sovereignty over its territories in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
“Since our President is now in China, we Filipinos are all [hoping] that our President will not sell us out whatever agreement is reached, especially on the West Philippine Sea and the economic aspect,” Billones said, using the local name of South China Sea waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Reminder of sovereignty
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman told the same forum that China “must always be reminded” of the Philippine victory in the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which invalidated China’s claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea and ruled that Beijing had violated Manila’s sovereign rights to fish and explore for resources in waters within its EEZ.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said Mr. Duterte, by his recent actions and pronouncements tilting toward China and away from the Philippines’ traditional ally the United States, may have weakened the tribunal’s ruling.
Alejano said he did not agree with Mr. Duterte that the Philippines’ only choice to resolve the dispute is going into direct talks with China.
“I don’t think that’s the only option on the table,” Alejano said. “We can raise the ruling because it gives us the moral high ground. We are claiming before we had legal basis for our claims, why abandon those claims now that we do?”
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has done extensive studies on the territorial conflict, warned last week that conceding the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the disputed waters is a ground for the President’s impeachment.
Asked on Sunday for comment on Carpio’s warning, Mr. Duterte said he agreed with him.
“He is correct. I would be impeached,” the President said. “I said we cannot barter which is not ours [or what] belongs to the Filipino people.”
China, which did not take part in the arbitration, has rejected the Hague ruling, calling it “waste paper.”
On Monday, the Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing was willing to work with all parties in the South China Sea dispute, including the Philippines, to maintain peace and stability in the region. —WITH A REPORT FROM AFP