DND pressed not to let China ‘stab us in the back’ on WPS claim amid ‘vaccine diplomacy’
MANILA, Philippines — As the Philippine government procures Covid-19 vaccines from China, Senator Risa Hontiveros pressed defense authorities not to allow Beijing to “stab us in the back” on the South China Sea dispute.
“We must not allow China to shake our hand on vaccine procurement, but stab us in the back on the West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros told reporters in an online press conference on Monday.
This comes on the heels of the reported passage of a law in China that would allow its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels on Chinese-claimed reefs in the event of threats.
“Hindi nakakatuwa na sa gitna ng pandemya, nagpasa sila ng gantong batas, habang nilalako ng Tsina ang mga bakuna nila bilang global public good ‘di umano, ibinabasura naman nila ang natitirang kapayapaan sa West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros said.
(It’s not good that in the middle of the pandemic, they passed this kind of law, amid China’s promotion of their vaccine as a global public good, they are throwing away the remaining peace in the West Philippine Sea.)
“Paano natin ngayon masisigurado na ang mga bakunang bibilhin natin o ibibigay ng Tsina ay walang halong kapalit?” she added.
(How can we ensure that the vaccines we are procuring from China and being donated by China will not be in exchange for something else?)
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines (the West Philippine Sea), Vietnam, and Taiwan.
In July 2016, the Philippines sealed a historic win against China before the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, which invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim, a ruling that Beijing refuses to recognize.
According to Hontiveros, the Department of National Defense (DND) should prepare a strategy amid the recent passage of China’s coast guard law.
“The DND already needs to have a strategy for when worse comes to worst…China should ease tensions in the WPS, not escalate them,” the senator said.
‘No special relationship’
Furthermore, Hontiveros called on the government to ensure that the Philippines follows an independent foreign policy.
“Dapat walang special relationship sa kahit anong bansa, lalo na sa Tsina sa ngayon — maging sa usapin ng West Philippine Sea man o sa bakuna,” she said.
(There should be no special relationship with any country, especially with China now—may it be on the issue of the West Philippine Sea or the vaccine procurement.)
“Ilang beses nang binanggit ni Sec. Harry Roque na ‘BFFs’ daw ang Pilipinas at China, na kahit ang presyo ng bakuna para sa COVID-19 ay bababa dahil daw sa ‘special relationship’ na ito. Hindi na nga tayo pinapayagang mangisda sa sarili nating dagat, special relationship pa rin? Ganyan ba magturingan ang sinasabi nilang BFFs?” she asked.
(Sec. Harry Roque has said that the Philippines and China are ‘BFFs’ that even the price of the vaccine has been brought down because of this ‘special relationship.’ They have prohibited fishermen to fish in our own waters, is that still considered as a ‘special relationship’? Is that how they treat their BFFs?)
She said the country’s national interest should be upheld and that it should be “beholden to any foreign power, whether in the West or in the East.”
In a Senate hearing last week, Hontiveros asked vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. for assurance that the country’s national interest in the West Philippine Sea will not be compromised in the government’s procurement of Chinese vaccines.
Galvez, in response, assured the senator that the Philippines will not compromise its claim in the West Philippine Sea.
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