By Genalyn Kabiling
The government has agreed with majority of Filipinos on the importance of asserting the country’s ownership of the West Philippine Sea but insisted that it will pursue such move through dialogue.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque maintained that the government would stick with the bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM) to manage the South China Sea dispute with China.
“We are one with our people in seeking to assert our sovereign rights and territorial claims in the WPS,” Roque said.
“Having seen how the confrontational approach of the previous administration only spurred greater militarization, we have shifted to a conciliatory tack and friendly dialogue with China by employing a bilateral consultation mechanism to resolve issues while we build up our capability to monitor and defend our maritime interests,” he added.
A Social Weather Stations survey recently found that 87 percent of respondents said it was important that the Philippines regains control of the islands occupied by China in the West Philippine Sea.
The same survey showed 69 percent agreed that China was afraid to face any because it knew it was not on the side of justice. Sixty-five percent of respondents were also aware that Chinese coast guards have forcibly taken the catch of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.
Recently, Roque said the administration was “not guilty” of inaction in addressing the country’s dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea. He said government continues to defend and protect the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea, citing the filing of protests against China’s actions in the contested territory.
Some groups have criticized the Duterte government for failing to do enough to protest China’s reclamation works and military buildup in the disputed territory.
President Duterte however has ruled out going to war with China due to fear it would only lead to a massacre of Filipino troops. Duterte instead opted to pursue the BCM to deal with the territorial conflict while his administration moves to enhance economic and security ties with the Asian neighbor.