Bayan Muna: Duterte gov’t should abandon pivot to China policy

Published April 4, 2021, 1:54 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate on Sunday urged the Duterte administration to abandon its pivot to China policy after the latter practically occupied the Julian Felipe Reef, which is clearly within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Party list Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)
Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Party list Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Zarate insisted China’s increasing aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) can be attributed to the now failed pivot to China policy of the Duterte administration.

Had the Duterte administration asserted the Hague Ruling against China’s arrogance and continued activities on the WPS, Zarate said Beijing wouldn’t have further occupied the reefs and islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“If the Duterte administration early on stood up for our sovereignty, fully asserted the country’s historic victory  at the Permanent Court of Arbitration and aggressively pushed for a code of conduct among  claimant countries, then China could not have further  occupied and militarized reefs and islands, even those already within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” Zarate said in a statement on Sunday, April 4.

“Very clearly now, the country’s Julian Felipe Reef, which China now superciliously
claims also as its own, is a target for full occupation and even possible conversion into another military installation in the area,” the progressive solon lamented. 

The Bayan Muna representative said the Duterte administration should set aside its subservience to China especially after the Chinese embassy called as “unprofessional” Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana’s statement and called for Chinese vessels to leave the Julian Felipe Reef in the WPS.

The Chinese embassy in Manila has justified it as “completely normal for Chinese fishing vessels” to be present at the Julian Felipe reef, which it calls Niu’e Jiao, as it allegedly “part of China’s Nansha Islands.” 

The lawmaker said China is clearly misleading the Philippine government and brazenly covering up the real purpose why its maritime militia is swarming the Julian Felipe Reef.

“The Chinese maritime militia fleet is not there because of a weather disturbance but as a prelude to fully occupying Julian Felipe Reef, do reclamation activities and convert  it into another artificial island-cum-military installation,  like what they did to at least seven of our reefs,” the solon said.

He further said there now seems to be a concerted effort by China to grab or at least cordon off the islands in the WPS. 

The National Task Force for West PH Sea, he said, has just issued a statement that the Chinese vessels have already dispersed to other areas in the Kalayaan Island Group and WPS.

“Is this in exchange of the so-called vaccine diplomacy ng China?”  the minority solon pointed out.

“We should not allow that these donated vaccines by China be like the biblical  ‘thirty pieces of silver’ that will further betray and sell out our national sovereignty and sovereign rights in our territories,” said the Davao-based lawmaker. 

“Again, we reiterate our call for a code of conduct in the South China Sea as well as joint patrols of the area with other claimants. The coast guard and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) should also send more air and marine assets in the area to monitor and deter any occupation, as well as to protect our fisherfolks,” he stressed.