PH at a disadvantage in Duterte’s trade mission to China—solon
Lawmakers from the “legitimate” minority opposition in Congress said the Philippines would surely be put at a disadvantage in the trade mission of businessmen led by President Rodrigo Duterte to China.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano urged Duterte to use the United Nations arbitral tribunal decision favoring the Philippines over China in the maritime dispute over the resource-rich West Philippine Sea, in a bid to put the Philippines at a position of “moral high ground” during the trade mission.
Alejano said any investment opportunity that would result from the trade mission would tie the Philippines to China’s mercy, thereby putting the Philippines’ maritime rights over the waters at a disadvantage.
“Ang ruling, nagbibigay sa atin ng moral high ground (The ruling gives us a moral high ground). We can build that to the build consensus among nation states that indeed, we are in the right side. Noon walang legal basis, ngayon mayroon na; then, the more na gamitin natin ito to our advantage (There was no legal basis before but now there is; the more that we need to use it to our advantage),” Alejano said.
“I don’t agree na ‘yung China, hindi i-pu-pursue ‘yung interest nila sa West Philippine Sea. Ang point ay disadvantage. Nag-open tayo sa China, dalhin natin businessmen sa China para magkaroon ng more economic opportunities; that would be disadvantageous to the Philippines kasi matatali tayo sa China,” he added.
(I don’t agree that China won’t pursue their interest in the West Philippine Sea. The point is disadvantage. We opened up to China, and we’ll bring businessmen to China to have more economic opportunities; that would be disadvantageous to the Philippines because we’ll be bound to China.)
Around 400 business persons have signed up to join Duterte’s trade mission, at a time of a favorable business climate with China due to Duterte’s shift in alliances from the United States to China as an emerging global power.
The Philippines’ relationships with China soured after the previous administration under Aquino took the maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea to the United Nation arbitral tribunal, which ruled in favor of the Philippines.
Alejano said using the Philippines’ advantage over China does not close the doors on possible investments with the economic giant, only that the Philippines would be wary of China’s interests over the West Philippine Sea.
“Hindi naman ito ibig sabihin na hindi na tayo makikipag-usap sa China. [When] we open ourselves more to China when it comes to trade, binabaon natin ang ating sarili. May conflict of interest sa West Philippine Sea… Tali na tayo sa China. Ano nang gagawin sa West Philippine Sea?” Alejano said.
(This doesn’t mean we won’t talk with China. When we open ourselves more to China when it comes to trade, we will be burying ourselves. There is conflict of interest in the West Philippine Sea… We are bound to China. What will be done about the West Philippine Sea?)
For his part, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman urged Duterte to remind China of the Philippines’ victory in the maritime dispute as the President’s way of setting the tone in the resumption of the bilateral talks with China.
“Whether or not President Duterte pulls out of his travel bag a copy of the arbitral decision sustaining the Philippines’ sovereignty over the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea, China must be constantly reminded of the Philippines’ victory. As Spanish diplomat Salvador De Madariaga has said, the gun that will shoot is more eloquent than the gun which has shot,” Lagman said.
“It is to the Philippines’ national interest for China to be made always aware that the arbitral decision is the President’s gun that will shoot to set the tone of the bilateral talks,” he added.
Lagman added that: “Philippine sovereignty is not made in China. It is ingrained in our history and the Constitution, recently upheld by the UN in the arbitral decision.”
Lagman said if Duterte does sell off Philippine’s sovereign right over the West Philippine to China, it would be a culpable violation of the Constitution and a ground for impeachment, concurring with the position of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
“Justice Carpio is correct. If there’s a trade-off of Philippine sovereignty, that’s a culpable violation of the Constitution, which is an impeachable offense… We are not talking of an eventual impeachment, we are talking about the ground as an impeachable offense,” Lagman said.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said he surmised Duterte is playing a brinkmanship game with China while veering away from its alliance with the United States, but the congressman feared this act of pushing the country to its limit may backfire on the Philippines.
“I think the President is playing a bluffing game, a sort of brinkmanship… The idea of being in a brinkmanship game, babalik sa atin ‘yan eh. It could boomerang on us, because the global context. The idea of being in a brinkmanship game, it could [happen that] babalik sa atin ‘yan. It could boomerang on us because the global context is very fragile,” Villarin said.
Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella has said the President would not enter into any agreement with China that would be prejudicial to the country’s interest in the West Philippine Sea. JE
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