Senators believe gov’t should be more assertive in PH’s claim over WPS

Published November 20, 2018, 6:17 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators believe that the government should be assertive in imposing its claim on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) so that the public would not assume that it was ignoring the issue in its talks with China.

Senate of the Philippines / Manila Bulletin
Senate of the Philippines / Manila Bulletin

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the people in his bailiwick Batangas shared the sentiment of the 84 percent of Filipinos, who were polled by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and showed dissatisfaction over the Duterte administration’s supposed inaction on China’s persistent military activities in the WPS.

Recto said his office conducted an independent survey relating to the West Philippines Sea, and the government’s plan to borrow from China to fund part of its ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

“Results are similar to SWS on WPS, and almost identical on borrowing from China,” the Senate leader said in a statement.

Senator Francis Escudero, meanwhile, recognized that the Philippines could not enforce The Hague ruling that upheld its jurisdiction over the West Philippines Sea due to the lack of military and economic might.

But the country, he maintained that the government “should also not do anything to adversely affect or diminish the ruling and our concomitant claim by any action or inaction by any president or government, now or in the future.”

“Temporarily setting aside our disagreement with China (regarding) the WPS is not, per se, contributory to laches but we must at the very least mention it, including the ruling of The Hague, in our multilateral or bilateral dealings with China and other nations,” Escudero said in a statement.

“Our people do not expect the government to assert our rights over the WPS militarily. However, they perhaps expect government to at least mention and assert it in their policy speeches and declarations.” he added.

Senator Francis Pangilinan said he hoped that with the survey, the government would finally assert the country’s position, and not easily yield to the impositions of China.

“I hope that forces the hand of the administration to change its posture and defend our territory and sovereignty rather than surrender to the Chinese,” said the opposition senator.

Senator Joel Villanueva said he joined the 84 percent of Filipinos in thinking that the government should not give up the country’s rights over West Philippines Sea.

“We should not be bullied and we should exhaust every legal remedy available to us to claim what is rightfully ours,” he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, for his part, said the SWS survey bared an obvious, “no-brainer” result on the WPS issue.

He said since Filipinos were already aware of the arbitral ruling, they would “naturally” expect “too much” from the government “especially that the president has the reputation of having the political will to get things done.”