Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday expressed hope President Rodrigo Duterte’s dealings with the government of China over the issue on the West Philippine Sea are marked by mutual respect.
The senator made the statement after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque disclosed the President is handling the country’s disputes with China “in private,” asserting that diplomatic initiatives need not be publicized.
However, Hontiveros said it is highly possible that the Chinese government is not taking the Philippine leader seriously during their dialogues.
“It would be a good thing if that had been marked by mutual respect,” Hontiveros said in an interview on CNN Philippines’ The Source.
“China has opportunistically used the pandemic as a cover to further her excessive ambitions in the whole of the South China Sea,” she said.
She cited as an example the China-made COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Chinese government to the Philippines.
The lawmaker said China is deliberately donating their vaccines apart from allowing procurement to ensure that the Philippine government would have no choice but to “swallow its pride” as they take over parts of the country’s territory in the West Philippine Sea.
“I’m sorry, those are two different matters. If they have donated vaccines, then thank you. But if we procured vaccines from them, that’s business,” she pointed out.
“But in terms of invoking our national sovereignty, our fishermen’s rights, ecological sustainability, freedom of navigation of Filipinos, including Filipino newsmen in our seas—that is ours,” she stressed.
“That is not subject to negotiations with her, and certainly, that should not be given up in exchange for any vaccines or anything they are selling to us,” Hontiveros reiterated.
She said Malacañang should do something to counter China as it is fast becoming the region’s biggest bully, undermining Filipinos’ rights even to the country’s own exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“It’s time to unequivocally stand up to her. The Palace should start confronting its supposed ‘best friend.’ And besides, what is Malacanang waiting for? Those vessels have been in our waters for the past many weeks…we are being fooled right in front of our faces. When will all these lies stop?” she stressed.
“Under this administration, we don’t even have freedom of navigation in our own Exclusive Economic Zone. Nakakahiya (It’s shameful). And it’s infuriating to repeatedly hear statements from the highest office of our government, of our nation, that the Philippines and China will resolve these issues because we are ‘friends.’ Ganyan ba magtrato ang isang kaibigan sa kanyang kaibigan (is that how a friend should treat a friend)?” she lamented.