House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate on Thursday, Nov. 18 dared all national candidates in the 2022 elections to clearly state their respective stand on the West Philippine Sea dispute with China.
Zarate said the Philippine government has to take a more determined position of being “more pro-active now in asserting our territorial rights than just lodging diplomatic protests.” Zarate issued these calls amid reports that Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked then water cannoned Philippine supply boats at Philippine waters in the Ayungin Shoal recently.
Together with Makabayan senatorial aspirant Nery Colmenares, Zarate stressed that those seeking to lead the nation next year should make known their unequivocal position on the issue.
Colmenares said it is important that voters will know whether a candidate is in favor or against the pro-China foreign policy of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“We also ask all presidential and senatorial candidates, especially the Marcos-Duterte tandem to categorically declare whether they are in favor or against Pres. Duterte’s West Philippine Sea foreign policy to favor China,” he said.
Duterte appeared to have ignored mounting calls for a stronger stand against the blatant disregard by China of Philippine rights over areas in the WPS.
Zarate said diplomatic protests or summoning China’s ambassador to explain the Ayungin Shoal incident “may no longer be enough.”
“Clearly, China does not accept accountability, like it even insisted recently that Julian Felipe Reef is theirs even if it is clearly part of our exclusive economic zone (EEZ); worse now, this attack on supply ships in our own territory,” the Bayan Muna lawmaker said.
“China has practically thrown to the garbage the previous diplomatic protests filed by the Philippines as it continuously violates the territory of the Philippines and tramples on our sovereign rights,” he lamented.
Zarate added: “At best, a diplomatic protest serves to merely register for the record the Philippine government’s position on these incursions.”