Senators back recall of PH ambassador to Beijing
Sen. Francis Tolentino’s earlier proposed response to China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea—the recall of Manila’s ambassador to Beijing Jaime FlorCruz—gained support from his colleagues on Monday, after Philippine vessels were harassed over the weekend by the Chinese coast guard and maritime militia.
Senators also backed their leader Juan Miguel Zubiri’s remarks on Sunday urging President Marcos to send home Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian. (See related story on this page.)In a statement on Monday, Tolentino reiterated his suggestion last month to have FlorCruz recalled.
“Our nation cannot afford to maintain diplomatic complacency when our citizens are subjected to harassment and intimidation [in] our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” said the chair of the Senate special committee on maritime and admiralty zones.
As the Philippine ambassador to China, FlorCruz acts on behalf of more than 400,000 Filipino workers there, many of whom are teachers, hotel workers, musicians and household workers.
In Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, there are more than 200,000 Filipinos, many of them working as caregivers and as health or household workers.
Message in Mandarin
Sen. JV Ejercito, meanwhile, lamented that Huang has been “dousing gasoline” on the “already tense” Philippines-China relations.
“The Chinese ambassador has been very hostile when he is supposed to serve as China’s line to the Philippines to ease the tension,” said Ejercito, adding that, on one occasion, Huang “supposedly came up to [Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff] General [Romeo] Brawner [Jr.] and told him, ‘Stop provoking us.’ To which the AFP chief purportedly replied: ‘We’re not provoking you; we’re legally doing activities within our (EEZ).’”
Speaking in Mandarin, Ejercito urged Huang to “Go home, you’re not wanted here.”
Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, for his part, said, “If we are serious about cutting diplomatic ties with this country (China), then we can do that. That is an option. We can [do it] both ways, either to recall or send home.”
He said the government should also consider arming Philippine Coast Guard vessels with more powerful water cannons to set up a challenge against China’s repeated water cannonade of Filipino vessels.
“It will be water against water since that is what they have been doing to us. We will give them a commensurate response to their acts of aggression,” he said.
“If they will fire lasers at us, then we should also equip our Coast Guard with lasers so we can fight back,” Dela Rosa suggested further, adding that the country is running out of options.
But he reminded the Coast Guard and other personnel patrolling the country’s waters to still observe “maximum tolerance [and] maximum patience.”
“I’m just being practical. In my view, we cannot remain this way forever acting like rats trying to run scared away from cats,” he said.
‘That time is now’
Former Sen. Leila de Lima also supported Zubiri’s call to send back China’s envoy.
Sending back Huang is the “only way the Philippines can send a strong message to China that enough is enough,” she said on X.
“Every bully must be told when to stop. And that time is now,” said De Lima, spokesperson for the opposition Liberal Party.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday said it hoped the Philippines would stop its provocations and work with China to address issues concerning the South China Sea.
It added that the responsibility of the incidents over the weekend lies on the Philippine side. —WITH REPORTS FROM GILLIAN VILLANUEVA, MARIELLE MEDINA AND REUTERS INQ