Pacquiao awaits China reply on West Philippine Sea dispute

Published May 3, 2021, 4:04 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao on Monday said he has not received a reply from China on his request that it withdraw its ‘’fishing’’ vessels at Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and continental shelf.

During a Zoom interview with Senate reporters, Pacquiao said he indeed wrote a letter to China through its Ambassador, Huang Xilian, last April 10 believing that his voice as a boxing world champion might be given weight since he is pushing for a peaceful settlement.

‘’Therefore nakikiusap tayo na paalisin ang fishing vessel dahil magkakaroon ng tension (Therefore I pleaded that China withdraws its fishing vessels because there is a brewing tension),’’ he added.

In that letter, Pacquiao told Xilian that China should withdraw its vessels ‘’from our territory.’’

‘’We demand nothing less than your country to respect our sovereignty (and) the continued presence of Chinese ships at the said reef which is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf only creates tension and harbors divisiveness in our region and evidently destabilizing to the international rule of law.’’ the Pacquiao letter added.

He said he did not sign a resolution of his colleagues asking China to withdraw its fishing vessels since he earlier sent his letter to Xilian.

On Duterte’s statement that Philippines owes a lot of gratitude to China and thus refuses to wage war over the WPS, Pacquiao said: ‘’Sino ba naman ang makipaggyera, wala naman siguro makipaggyera sa panahon ngayon. ang sa atin lang respetuhin naman karapatan natin, igalang naman yung kung sa atin ay sa atin, wag naman apakan ang sa atin (Who would wage war? No one wants to go to war during this health crisis. What we want is for China to respect our rights, that what is ours, is ours and don’t trample upon us).’’

Pacquiao recalled then Davao city Mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte during a presidential campaign in Dagupan city in 2016 that he would ride a jetski to the WPS and plant the Philippine flag.

‘’Nagbigay ng encouragement sa ating mga kababayan, lumakas ang loob natin. ito yung gusto ko (He gave encouragement to our countrymen and stiffened our resolve). Tapos pagdating ng panahon dapat manindigan tayo kung ano ang sa atin (When the time comes, we should stand up and fight for what is ours),’’ he added.

Asked that the President appeared to have softened on his stance, Pacquiao replied: ‘’Alalahanin talaga nating mabuti na ilang libong buhay ang ibinuwis ng ating mga ninuno para sa ating bansa (We must remember that thousands of our forefathers lost their lives for our country).’’

Queried whether he is disappointed over the ‘’soft’’ stand of the President, Pacquiao said: ‘’Nakukulangan ako doon kumpara doon sa bago pa siya tumakbo mag-eeleksyon pa lang dapat ipagpatuloy nya yun para magkaroon din naman tayo ng respeto. (The President should have continued with his ‘’strong’’ stance he showed during the presidential campaign so that we earn respect {from China}.)

Pacquiao asserted that the Duterte administration should be forceful in asserting Philippine sovereignty.

‘’Yes ako magsabi ako kaibigan ko ang china, pero respetuhin din ang karapatan natin, respetuhin at igalang ang kung ano ang sa atin (Yes, I can say I am a friend of China but China must respect our rights and what are ownership.)