Diplomacy is still first line of defense for the PH, two senators say

Two senators on Tuesday, August 22 expressed belief diplomacy is still the key to peacefully resolve the ongoing tension in the West Philippine Sea. 


Sen. Imelda “Imee” Marcos said it is important to observe diplomacy at all levels in resolving maritime disputes. 


“The first line of defense is diplomacy. Let us settle our conflict in a peaceful manner.  We should fully comply with our obligation under the UN Charter to settle conflicts in a peaceful way,” Marcos said.


Since “China sent us a note to dialogue, let us talk to them,” the President’s sister also added.


“This time, however, we should document every attempt by our diplomats, Coast Guard, and military personnel to communicate with China. To the extent permissible,” Marcos suggested.


“We should make records of these attempts accessible to neutral third parties so that they may verify our efforts and China's responses thereto,” she added. 


Through this, Marcos said the world can ascertain both countries' sincerity in engaging in genuine dialogue.


“To be clear, we will do whatever is necessary to protect our rights through peaceful means. Resupplying our personnel in Ayungin Shoal is within our legal rights,” she pointed out.


“Thus, if we need larger and more powerful supply ships and PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) escort ships, then we will acquire them, preferably by building them ourselves," 

"Might does not make right. We will stand our ground because we are in the right,” Marcos stressed. 


Sen. Risa Hontiveros, for her part, said that while the US-Japan, Australia joint navy drills can act as a deterrent against China’s continuing aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, “diplomacy and politics should still be in the driver’s seat of dispute resolution,” and “steering the direction towards absolute respect for the rule of law.”


“Any joint patrol should only serve as reinforcement to the diplomatic means of de-escalating tensions and restoring true peace in the entire South China Sea,” Hontiveros said. 


At the same time, Hontiveros defended the move of the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Kalayaan Island to declare Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian as persona non grata, saying they have the prerogative to do so. 


“After all, why would they welcome someone who seems to encourage China’s threats and harassment in their own shores? Why would they welcome someone who does not recognize their right to exist in the first place?” the opposition senator said.


“The residents and fisherfolk from Kalayaan have lost their traditional fishing grounds and their main source of livelihood because of China’s presence in the West Philippine Sea,” she added.


Hontiveros said the municipality has all the right to defend their home, not least by banning individuals who continue to disrespect Philippine sovereignty and the dignity of the Filipino people.


“In fact, Beijing should have already recalled Huang ever since he threatened Filipino OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in Taiwan. He should be replaced,” she pointed out.


“He cannot be an effective diplomat in the Philippines if he continues to aggravate tensions rather than assuage them,” the lawmaker added.