Duterte should rethink ‘hands-off’ approach on China—Gatchalian
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, an administration ally, is urging President Rodrigo Duterte to rethink his “hands-off” approach on China’s reported incursions in Scarborough Shoal, saying the Philippines “should never be bullied by anyone.”
“It is incorrect to say that there is nothing we can do to stop China. We still have several legal and diplomatic options, all of which must be exhausted in defending Philippine territory from foreign aggression,” Gatchalian said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The Philippines should never allow itself to be bullied by anyone, no matter how big and powerful that bully might be,” he said.
Duterte earlier said he could not stop China from building on the shoal, noting that even the Americans could not stop it.
“What do you want me to do? Declare war against China? I can’t. We will lose all our military and policemen tomorrow and we [will be] a destroyed nation,” he said at a press conference in Davao City.
But Gatchalian, who is part of the Senate majority bloc, said the government could invoke the South China Sea Arbitration ruling in filing a formal protest against China’s plan to build a radar installation in the Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Island.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in July last year that the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.
“The favorable decision in the Philippines vs. China case is a potent tool we can use to enforce our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea. It is our duty to invoke this ruling and take action before international legal institutions to contest any further acts of Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea,” the neophyte senator said.
Gatchalian said the Scarborough Shoal, which sits less than 200 kilometers off the coast of Zambales, is a militarily significant position that must be protected at all costs.
“Chinese military activity so close to the Philippine mainland is an alarming national security risk that must be immediately addressed,” he said.
Two other members of the majority bloc, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, also backed the government’s plan to file a diplomatic protest against China’s plan to build on in the disputed island.
“I support the filing of a formal protest,” Recto said in a text message.
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, member of the minority bloc and president of the Liberal Party (LP), also threw his support behind the government’s action against China.
“We fully support the position taken by the Department of Justice. We cannot just act helplessly and allow China to build structures without making our opposition known,” Pangilinan said in another text message.
“Tama na maghain ng protesta dahil sa daang-libong hektarya ng maritime sea ang saklaw natin sa ilalim ng UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) na pinatibay ng ruling ng international court na iligal na kinakamkam ng China,” he added.
(It’s right to file a protest because of the thousands of hectares of the maritime sea in our scope under the UNLCOS and strengthened by the ruling of international court, which China is illegally claiming.) JE
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