Agitation on WPS may cause economic backlash to PH, says Rep. Torres-Gomez
MANILA, Philippines — Leyte 4th District Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez on Monday urged for sobriety in public discussions over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as she raised economic concerns over calls for the government to be more aggressive in dealing with Chinese military vessels that have been spotted in various reefs inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Torres-Gomez said that while it is easy for the public to focus on its aggressive activities in the WPS, the people should at the same time look at the broader picture if the country continues to agitate, and even anger, China.
“There are economic repercussions if we continue to insist that China give in to our demand for them to get off our waters. Let us not forget that China is the Philippines’ biggest export and import partner,” she said, as she noted that in March 2021 alone, the Philippines exported $1.8 billion and imported $1.2 billion to and from China.
“Our economic ties are both our strength and vulnerability. We are not even talking about loans or vaccines,” she added.
She likewise recalled that in 2012, amid the stand-off in the Scarborough Shoal, the country experienced China’s economic backlash when it refused banana exports from the Philippines. The move resulted in the loss of $34 million in revenues, which badly hurt the agriculture sector, particularly banana farmers and plantation workers.
“If in the distant likelihood that we succeed in driving away China’s military vessels out of our EEZ and the WPS, are we prepared to face the economic counterattack that China is likely to use to get back at us? Is our economy ready for the backlash, especially amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our fiscal standing?” Torres-Gomez asked.
“The WPS is more complex than just presenting a legal award from an international body. The question is: How much more aggressive must our government be? In this David vs. Goliath situation, things are far from simplistic. For those who are quick to say that aggression is not necessarily an invitation to war, the truth is China does not have to fire a single shot to hurt us,” the representative from Ormoc City said.
The lawmaker suggested that the government appeal for status quo in the region. “Let us appeal to China and our neighbor countries to stand down and momentarily set aside our respective claims on the WPS. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to batter all of us. Let us give each other the space and time to address the global health crisis first. Let us give each other time to heal,” Torres-Gomez said.
She, however, quickly added that the government should not be complacent. “While I am saying that we should be cautious about pursuing our aggressive position on the WPS issue, I am at the same time encouraging the government to continue guarding our sovereign rights. Let us improve how we patrol our seas by modernizing the Philippine Coast Guards, and perhaps we can better assist our fishermen in our EEZ.” she said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.