Gatchalian, De Lima weigh in on Duterte’s hands-off stance in sea dispute
Two senators weighed in on Tuesday on President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that the maritime dispute involving the West Philippine Sea “should be left untouched.”
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian acknowledged the Duterte had been performing a “very tough balancing act.”
“He is balancing between our national interest as well as the external conflicts that beset our country,” Gatchalian, a member of the majority bloc in the Senate, said in a statement.
“The focus of the President is to attract as much investments without disrupting the status quo that he inherited,” he added. “It is too early to tell whether this strategy has yielded the much needed investments to grow our country out of poverty.”
On the other hand, Sen. Leila De Lima chided Duterte for being a “good lapdog to his Chinese masters.”
“China keeps building, while our President behaves like a good lapdog to his Chinese masters and orders his own military to stop building sheds for troops defending the country’s sovereignty,” De Lima said.
“The AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] should take note that their commander in chief is fast becoming, if he is not yet, the proverbial Manchurian candidate,” she added.
According to the detained senator, the talks between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China on the code of conduct governing the contested seas “only reinforce the Philippines’ disadvantaged status quo position, vis-à-vis China’s unmitigated island-building and deployment of blue-water assets and coast guard in the area.”
She also urged the AFP to be aware of what she called a “policy of subservience or defeatism.”
“The AFP should be aware that there might be no turning back from this policy of subservience or defeatism,” she said. “It could be that the status quo of Chinese dominance and Philippines’ defaulting in the Spratlys is firmly irreversible.”
“Do not betray your people and your country in this watershed moment of our sovereignty and independence. Do not follow Duterte down his traitor’s path,” she added.
During one of the summits on the sidelines of the 31st Asean Summit, Duterte said: “Today China is the number one economic powerhouse, and we have to be friends. The other hotheads would like us to confront China and the rest of the world for so many issues.”
“The South China Sea is better left untouched. Nobody can afford to go to war,” he added.
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