‘’What kind of friend – or benefactor – would take what is ours, bully us, and ignore our protests?’’
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee, threw this poser as he sought a review of the diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China, in the wake of China’s recent incursions and bullying in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Lacson also said the Senate should throw its support behind Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who in a tweet, had told China to “get … out” after filing numerous diplomatic protests over China’s conduct.
“Maybe a review of the country’s diplomatic relations is timely and called for. All the diplomatic protests that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs filed have been ignored as if nothing was filed at all. The continued incursions and bullying finally got his goat. The Senate must support him in this regard,” Lacson said on his Twitter account.
Last April 10, Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao wrote China through Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian that it must withdraw its Coast Guard ships from the WPS because their continued presence is causing tension in the area.
Lacson noted Senate minority leader Franklin M. Drilon, the principal author and sponsor of a recently filed Senate resolution on the WPS issue, virtually accepted on Monday two of his proposed amendments, the first of which involves changing the word “condemning” to “strongly objecting.”
“To condemn means some sort of eternal divine punishment. Hence, no matter how unlikely, in case China eases up on its aggressive stance, our condemnation cannot be taken back,” Lacson explained.
A second proposed amendment by Lacson that Drilon virtually accepted was to “urge the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to consider a review of the long existing diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China in order to send a clear message that the incursions into our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in utter disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the rule of law is totally unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, Lacson reiterated the issue of the West Philippine Sea should not be connected with other issues, including vaccine donations. “We should have a united stand on the West Philippine Sea, and this should not be connected to any other issue except sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
In pushing for a review of Philippine-China diplomatic ties, Lacson pointed out the Philippines must become “innovative and creative” in approaching the issue as diplomatic protests no longer seem effective.
“There are so many possibilities to explore,” he said.
On the other hand, Lacson said the review should go hand in hand with seeking stronger alliances with the more militarily powerful countries like the United States, Australia, even Japan and some European Union countries to maintain the balance of power in the region.
He pointed out that China has already made at least three incursions into Philippines EEZ – Scarborough Shoal, Panatag Shoal, and now Julian Felipe Reef.
Scarborough (or Panatag) Shoal is 120 nautical miles west of Zambales in Luzon (Philippines) or about nautical miles east of Hainan, the easternmost Chinese landmass.