By Mario Casayuran
An opposition senator on Thursday said respect should be the basis of any Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China talks on the Code of Conduct in the disputed territories in the South China Sea.
“Respect for oneself, for who you’re talking to, for your countrymen, for the environment,” Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP), said.
The senator issued the statement after President Duterte told other ASEAN leaders in Suntec City, Singapore, during dinner Wednesday that the Philippines is ready to do its part in realizing a more peaceful, stable, and secure region.
President Duterte stressed that the Philippines is committed to work with all concerned parties in the substantive negotiations and early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct.
He has repeatedly assured the Filipino nation that he would not give up the country’s rights on the disputed territory despite the country’s renewed and improved friendship with China.
Despite a favorable ruling by United Nations Arbitral Tribunal that China’s historical claim over the west Philippine Sea and other parts of the South China Sea has no basis, China maintained that it would not give an inch of its claimed in the contested territory.
“What should have been done after the favorable ruling at the international arbitration in 2016?” Pangilinan asked.
“Engage with China, with our ASEAN neighbors, and with their people. Explain the victory of the Philippines is a win for all, especially to the small fishermen, whether Filipino, Chinese, or from ASEAN. Push for a zone of peace and sustainability in the seas we are duty-bound to protect; highlight the participation of fishermen, seafarers, and the so-called environmental activists or environmental advocates,” he stressed, answering his own question.
“Listen to the sentiments of ordinary citizens. Filipino, Chinese, or ASEAN people, no one wants conflict,” he added.
Pangilinan said governments of the Philippines, China, and ASEAN should not forget that in these talks, they represent their people and the next generation – those who are most affected by their decisions.