MANILA, Philippines – “We have to defend this land.”
In one of her last public appearances, the late Leticia Ramos-Shahani urged Filipinos in a forum on October 26, 2016, to “defend our coastlines.”
Shahani died on Monday, March 20, at the age of 87 after suffering from colon cancer. She is the sister of former president Fidel V Ramos. She is also the daughter of former Philippine foreign secretary Narciso Ramos, a founding father of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. (READ: Leticia Ramos Shahani: The woman who competed with the best)
“We will always invite invaders,” she explained in a media forum, citing the country’s geography that has made it attractive.
The former diplomat and senator, in any case, described the Philippines as a future maritime power.
“We are a maritime power, but we have to prove it and work towards that,” Shahani said, describing Filipinos as “children of the sea.”
“We are a global player whether we like it not because of our geography,” added Shahani, a seasoned diplomat who served as ambassador to Australia from 1981 to 1986, among other international assignments.
Shahani made her remarks during the Roundtable at Lido on October 26, 2016, in the context of the Philippines’ dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
She referred to the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea, where China is now reportedly planning to build a radar station.
Hitting Chinese coast guard
Duterte on Sunday, March 19, conceded that he cannot stop China from doing this. (READ: 5 ways Duterte can defend Scarborough without going to war)
Shahani’s tone was different.
She said: “Now why do I talk like this? Because I was born in Lingayen, Pangasinan. That is the West Philippine Sea. Now, Scarborough Shoal is so close to Lingayen Gulf. And the Chinese coast guard is already there.”
Shahani pointed out that Panatag Shoal has long been traditional fishing grounds for Pangasinan’s fishermen.
Referring to the plight of Pangasinan’s fishermen, she said, “Now you cannot go there now because the Chinese coast guard is there. Who is the Chinese coast guard to go there?”
Shahani then urged the Philippines to consult its experts on the way forward after the Philippines won a historic case against China over the West Philippine Sea.
“We have to clarify our own position,” said Shahani, who served as Philippine senator from 1987 to 1998.
“I hope that our President thought about it,” she added, referring to Manila’s legal victory against Beijing.
Duterte had said he will not “flaunt” this ruling, and will focus on boosting trade with China.
Reminding Duterte of protocol
During the same Lido forum in Quezon City, she also reminded Duterte of the importance of protocol as the Philippines’ chief diplomat made a 3-day visit to Japan.
The Japanese, she said, “expect that our President won’t eat chewing gum, that he won’t wear jeans” in front of Emperor Akihito, “whose father was like a god.”
“In diplomacy, protocol is very important,” Shahani said.
The diplomat explained: “If you have to attend a reception, you do it for the country. It’s a patriotic act.”
“As somebody said, ‘I regret that I have only one stomach to give to my country’ – because you really have to eat and drink just to be in good conversation with your peers, and to get some information from them,” she said.
“If you are a good diplomat, you’re not just there to enjoy the food and have a nice time. No, you have to get some information from them. Which they will be ready to give you after they have eaten your nice food and drank your nice liquor. That is the idea. So protocol is also very important,” Shahani added.
Later in this forum in October 2016, Shahani gave her prospects for the Philippines in the next 5 years.
“Baka wala na ‘ko dito, Melo, ha, in 5 years,” she said, laughing. (I might no longer be here, Melo, in 5 years.)
“But this is the way I would see it,” she continued. “I hope that the rule of law will prevail in our region.”
Shahani also pointed out: “We have the number seven longest coastline in the world. Can you imagine that? And who will defend it if not the people? Who? You mean we are waiting for the Americans? No way. Not even the US navy can defend this coastline.”
“Tayong mga Pilipino, dapat ipaglaban natin ‘yung lupa natin.” (We Filipinos should fight for our land.) – Rappler.com
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