Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III advised his fellow senators against using the word “condemn” in slamming China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), echoing President Duterte that the country is still a “friend” to the Philippines.
Sotto said on Saturday, May 1, that he supports the resolution filed by 11 of his colleagues, calling on the Senate to “condemn in the strongest possible terms the illegal activities” of China in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and other parts of the WPS.
But he said he would propose amendments to the measure, particularly on the use of “condemn” to denounce China’s activities.
“‘Yong iba sa amin with amendments, like for example kung tayo’y pumapalag at sinasabi natin na gusto natin – ang resolution natin ay sinusuportahan natin ang posisyon ng Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) at saka ng Department of National Defense (DND). Ayan, okay ‘yan (Some of us support the resolution but with amendments, like for example, if we are protesting the activities and we wanted to support the DFA and the DND, it’s fine with us),” he said in an interview over DWIZ radio.
“Pero ‘yong paggamit ng word na condemning, medyo pinag-aaralan naming mabuti kasi kaibigan mo, gagamitan mo ng ‘condemning’ (But the use of the word ‘condemning’, I think we have to study it carefully because you are addressing a friend),” he added.
Sotto pointed out that China remains to be a trading partner to the Philippines. He agreed with Duterte’s statement that China is a “good friend”.
“Kung pwedeng huwag munang ganoon kadiin dahil pwede naman – pwede namang ano eh, ika nga, ‘yong posisyon ng DFA, posisyon ng DND, suportahan natin. Ingat lang sa paggamit ng mga salita (Maybe we could tone it down — we can just support the DFA and the DND’s position. We should be careful with our words),” he said.
He said he is confident that China will heed the senators’ call. This, even as China insists that parts of the Philippines’ EEZ are part of its territory.
He said he would personally talk to Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian about it over a game of golf next week.
Last March, over 200 Chinese vessels were spotted at the Julian Felipe Reef, which is part of the Philippines’ EEZ.
Authorities later discovered that the vessels, which they believed were manned by Chinese militia, did not leave and were only dispersed in various areas of the WPS.
The Philippine coast guard and navy have beefed up patrols in the WPS.