Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said on Saturday, June 19, the Philippines has to work hard to strengthen the community of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Manila is a member, for regional peace and stability.
Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV attends 1Sambayan’s virtual National Security and Foreign Policy town hall meeting on June 19, 2021 (Screenshot from 1Sambayan’s Facebook feed)
“Now we have to force it to solidify yung kanilang sinasabing (what they’re calling the) ASEAN political security community. But the challenge there I believe is the ASEAN nations have their individual relationships with China,” he said during 1Sambayan’s virtual National Security and Foreign Policy town hall meeting.
Trillanes is a member of 1Sambayan, having been formally nominated by the opposition coalition to run for president or vice president in the May 2022 polls.
The former senator, who is open about his political plans, accepted the nomination but only if Vice President Leni Robredo will not run as president.
Trillanes was once sent by former President Benigno Aquino III to China for backchannel negotiations during the height of the disputes in the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal).
He warned of China’s so-called Debt Trap Diplomacy, which refers to Beijing luring developing countries into huge loans then forcing them to cede strategic assets to China once they are unable to pay.
Many ASEAN nations are heavily indebted to Beijing either through loans or investments, which is why Trillanes sees this as a challenge to uniting the Southeast Asian group.
The 1Sambayan nominee also alleged that the Philippines’ claims in the West Philippine Sea have been compromised since Duterte took office.
“Nung pumasok si Duterte ay meron po siyang agenda. Siya ay nakompromiso ng China noong siya ay tumakbo at tumanggap ng campaign contributions noong 2016. And because of that, nakompromiso lahat (When Duterte became president, he has an agenda. He was compromised by China when he run for office and received campaign contributions in 2019. And because of that, everything is compromised),” Trillanes said.
China’s claims in the resource-rich region is believed by many pundits to be a potential flashpoint for armed conflict. The Arbitral Award would have given the Philippines a solid standing of its claims that Beijing’s nine-dash line claim is invalid and is in violation of international maritime laws.
Duterte’s friendly stance to China has been a thorn in a largely popular administration that enjoys a high trust rating from the public except in matters related to the maritime disputes.