By Hannah Torregoza
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said he hopes to hear from President Rodrigo Duterte a stronger policy statement on the West Philippine Sea issue on his State of the Nation Address (SONA) this time around.
Drilon reiterated his call for the Duterte administration to do away with its “policy of appeasement” with China since it has no effect on the country’s economy.
Critics of the administration have accused Duterte of kowtowing to China for acquiescing to its militarization of artificial islands in the Spartlys instead of enforcing the ruling of the international arbitration court which upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the contested islands that China has developed into military bases.
“I’ve said before that such appeasement policy has no effect on the economy,” Drilon said in an interview over Radio DZBB.
“Just look at our neighboring country, Vietnam, who resisted China’s aggressive claim, yet their foreign direct investment (FDI) from China is still big at $2.17-billion,” Drilon stressed.
In contrast, Chinese investment to the Philippines is only $31-million in 2017).
He also said the number of Chinese tourist arrivals in Vietnam is four times larger than in the Philippines, pointing out that Chinese tourists that came to the country in 2017 was only at 968,447 while Vietnam had theirs at almost four million.
“ At the end of the day, ang ibig sabihin, yung national interest ng China at kung ano man ang sitwasyon sa Vietnam in terms of their attraction as an investment destination, iyon po ang mangingbabaw (whatever is China’s national interest and what ever situation Vietnam is in in terms of their attraction as an investment destination will prevail),” he said.
That is why, he said, he wishes to hear from the President what his plans are to assert the government’s rights on the islands at the West Philippine Sea.
“The policy of appeasement is not working. Kaya ibig nating marinig kung ano ang paraan para mabawi yung mga isla na ito na sinabi ng court ay atin iyan (That’s why we want to hear what measures the government can do to reclaim this islands that the international court has declared as ours),” the minority leader said.
Drilon said he believes the Duterte administration assert the country’s rights without having to go to war with China.
“Sa akin lang, dapat kailangan gumawa ng paraan through peaceful means – diplomatic means – katulad yung pagpunta sa UN para maibalik yung sovereignty natin over these islands (To me, we should do something through peaceful means—diplomatic means—like when we went to the United Nations, so we can claim back our sovereign rights over these islands),” he said.
“We should be more assertive on our claims on these islands,” he added.
And as a partner of the government in policy making, he said the Senate should start hearing the various resolutions calling for an inquiry into the state ‘s policy with China.
“I am calling on Senate President Vicente Sotto III and (Senate foreign relations) chairman Loren Legarda to start the hearings on this issue so we can also hear the experts’ suggestions on what we can do in terms of peaceful pursuits over West Philippine Sea,” he said. [Hannah L. Torregoza