Duterte urged: Disclose terms with China
Two members of the majority in the House of Representatives have urged President Duterte to be transparent in his dealings with China, amid concern and confusion about Chinese maritime activities he has said he has allowed within Philippine territory.
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon and 1-Ang Edukasyon Rep. Salvador Belaro said Mr. Duterte should put his China policy in writing.
Such a document would allow the government to discuss the policy and avoid misinterpretation, the two lawmakers said at a news forum in the House on Monday.
“This policy should be reduced in writing so later on, it would not be questioned,” Belaro said.
“To exclude any doubt with respect to implications of these activities, the President should clarify what is the extent or risk misinterpretation,” he added.
“There should be a binding document on both parties and that binding document must somehow be open to discussion by the government,” Biazon said.
He said the Philippines had to take measures and explore diplomatic means against incursions, but Belaro said Mr. Duterte had the discretion to allow the Chinese to explore the country’s seas.
Belaro said Mr. Duterte was “just exercising his function as the principal foreign policy officer of the country” when he applied geopolitical considerations in pursuing a soft stance on Chinese activities in Philippine waters.
Since the South China Sea and Benham Rise are technically not Philippine territorial seas, Belaro said the country had only exclusive economic rights that it could use as a leverage with China.
“A right could be waived, [but] there is a quid pro quo,” Belaro said. “It’s not bad for other countries to use the exclusive economic zone. It’s not bad per se. It’s an asset you can do something with, so long as you get a concession for it.”
Biazon is preparing for a legislative inquiry into China’s incursions into Benham Rise last year.
Despite the need for further disclosure, he said Mr. Duterte would not be called to the House.
“I don’t think it’s necessary. The Cabinet secretaries are alter egos of the President. We can take [what they say] as policy statements,” he said.