Hontiveros blasts Palace for ‘sheepish response’ to China in WPS
Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday branded Malacañang’s response to China’s missile deployments on Philippine-claimed reefs in the West Philippine Sea “a grave insult to the bravery and sacrifices of Filipino soldiers.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in a statement on Friday, said that while Malacañang was concerned about the deployment of the missiles, he expressed confidence that those were not directed at the Philippines.
The Duterte administration has taken a diplomatic approach in dealing with Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea.
“Despite the lack of resources and infrastructure, our troops stationed and assigned in the West Philippine Sea have bravely maintained our presence in the region and ensured the integrity of our territory,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“It is thus a grave insult to our soldiers and a mockery of their sacrifices that the Duterte government has chosen to continue to be subservient to Chinese interests in the face of the country’s biggest security threat,” the senator stressed.
Likewise, Hontiveros said that the Duterte administration was bowing out of its duty to protect the safety of Filipino fisherfolk traversing the disputed waters.
However, the Department of Foreign Affairs earlier reported that diplomatic efforts by President Rodrigo Duterte had allowed Filipino fishermen to return to disputed waters after China barred them amid heightened tensions during the Aquino administration.
“Where is now the bravado of the so-called strongman? Binantaan at tinutukan na ng missiles ang ating mga sundalo sa West Philippine Sea, pro-China pa rin ang paninindigan ng kanilang Commander-in-Chief?” Hontiveros asked.
“Anong klaseng pamumuno yan? Isa itong malaking insulto sa katapangan at sakripisyo ng ating mga tropa na halos ibuwis ang lahat para lamang ipaglaban ang ating pambansang soberanya,” she added.
The senator also chided Roque for issuing a statement that she would only “expect from China’s fifth column, not from the spokesperson of the country’s commander-in-chief.”
“Is it now the policy of this government to allow superpowers to install missiles in our backyard as long as they are not directed at us?” Hontiveros asked.
“And how can they be sure? Were they informed by China about this? Did they have prior knowledge of the installation and existence of the missiles? Were they even there when they were installed? If not the Philippines, where are the missiles directed at? The government has a lot of explaining to do,” she stressed.
Hontiveros is an ally of former-President Benigno Aquino III, during whose term China occupied Philippine-claimed territories in the West Philippine Sea and started building artificial islands.
At that time, China also barred Filipino fishermen from the resource-rich Scarborough Shoal. The ban ended when Duterte restored good relations with Beijing.
To address the controversy, Hontiveros urged the government to “court and mobilize international public opinion to our side by filing a strong diplomatic protest faithful to the ruling of the United Nations Arbitral Council.”
The government should also “employ real foreign affairs experts who can craft and implement a foreign policy that is resolute but adaptable, strategic and pragmatic, amiable yet patriotic, especially in handling our territorial disputes,” the senator said.
“Lastly, it is paramount that the administration upgrades our naval defenses with strategic naval vessels and equipment to better secure the country’s sovereignty and territories,” she pointed out. /cbb
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