Opposition laments Duterte stand on West Philippine Sea

Published July 27, 2020, 10:41 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

Opposition lawmakers no longer expect that President Duterte may be able to protect and assert the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea until he steps down in 2022 after admitting he can’t go to war with China over the territorial dispute.

The President’s admission that he cannot go to war against China which is “in possession” of the disputed territory did not sit well with Magdalo party-list Rep. Manuel Cabochan III and some members of the Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives.

“The SONA was used again to perpetuate the false dilemma of waging war when we assert our rights in the West Philippine Sea. This just makes it definite that we cannot expect the protection of our sovereignty throughout the Duterte administration,” Cabochan said after President Duterte delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa Monday.

“One thing is sure, our nation will suffer great losses in the hands of Mr. Duterte. But let us also look at the good side. We may borrow his words, ‘the patience of the Filipino people is reaching its limits…’ for ‘half-baked, half-cooked, lousy service,’” the former Navy intelligence officer said.

ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said the outright sell-out of the West Philippine Sea stuck in her mind, upon hearing the Chief Executive’s pro-China stance.

“Wala na tayong maasahan sa panahon ni Duterte hanggang matapos ang kanyang panahon dun sa pagkuha natin ng ating pagkapanalo sa West Philippine Sea parang ipinamigay na niya (We cannot expect anything during the term of President as far as our victory in the West Philippine Sea. It appears he already surrendered it),” she said in a virtual press briefing. Castro was referring to the July, 2016, landmark unanimous ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the United Nations arbitral tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands, that rejected China’s historic nine-dash line.

“Inamin niya talaga na talagang siya ay inutil at inaamin niya na kapag tayo ay nag-claim sa West Philippine Sea ay giyera. Hindi ako naniniwala na masasadlak tayo sa giyera once na pinaglaban natin ang West Philippine Sea (He admitted being inutile. He also admitted that once we asserted our claim over the West Philippine Sea, we are going to war. I do not believe that we will be mired in war once we assert our right over the West Philippine Sea).”

House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Ssagani Zarate said, “Hindi naman giyera lang ang paraan para i-assert natin, naipanalo na nga natin yan sa international tribunal (It is not only through war that we can assert our rights, we already scored a victory at the international tribunal).”

He said the Philippines could have pursued the forging of a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea that would ensure peace and stability in the disputed region and “promote equality and mutual respect” among the claimant countries.

”‘Yan ang isang dapat itulak sa usapin ng West Philippine Sea  at hindi aminin na, ‘Inutil ako’, at wala na tayong magawa  because they are in possession (That should be pursued when we talk about the West Philippine Sea and not admitting that, ‘I am inutile’ and we cannot do something about I because they are in possession),” Zarate said.

“This is the patrimony of our people and our nation, at hindi natin ito puwedeng sabihin na lang na ibasura na lang natin at pabayaan  natin (we cannot just say, we will set is aside),” he said.