Asserting a country’s sovereignty does not equate to declaring a war against another country who claims ownership over its territory, Senator Grace Poe said on Tuesday, April 20.
Poe shared the view that the Philippines cannot afford to give in to China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), saying: “We must protect what rightfully belongs to our people.”
“Asserting our sovereignty, protecting our fisherfolk, and managing our natural resources are not a declaration of war,” she added.
The senator issued the statement after President Duterte conceded that “nothing will happen” if the Philippines would counter the patrols of Chinese military vessels in the WPS, “because we are not in possession of the area”.
Duterte also said the issues in the WPS “remains a question forever, until such time that, you know, we can take it back”.
“We should raise the Philippine flag in our territory, not the white flag of surrender,” Poe, however, said.
She said the Philippines is “not out of options” in asserting its sovereignty over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“At the very least we can explore all options in asserting our sovereignty including seeking the aid of neighboring countries and allies. We should bring more international attention to the issue,” she raised.
Aside from tapping its international allies, Poe said the Philippine government must also be more vocal in calling out the Chinese incursions in the WPS.
“By merely being critical of the massing up of foreign vessels in the West Philippine Sea, we’ve already seen movement among our allies. More Filipinos are braving the frontlines to expose the situation in our waters,” she said.
“With the stronger stance displayed by the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and the DND (Department of National Defense) on the matter, the number of vessels in the area has been reduced,” she also recalled.
Senator Panfilo Lacson also thought that Duterte’s statement might imply that the Philippines is giving up its territorial claims against China.
During the presidential campaigns in 2016, Duterte boldly vowed to sail the WPS, even using a jetski, to plant the Philippine flag to assert the country’s sovereignty amid China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea.