Robredo says Duterte admin ‘too soft’ vs Chinese presence in West PH Sea

Mara Cepeda
Robredo says Duterte admin ‘too soft’ vs Chinese presence in West PH Sea


'Iyong atin, atin iyon. Kapag mayroong violation galing sa iba – kung China man iyan o ibang lugar – kailangan tayong mag-protesta,' says Vice President Leni Robredo on China's militarization of the West Philippine Sea

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo described as “too soft” the approach of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government in dealing with China’s militarization of the West Philippine Sea.

The Vice President was asked on Wednesday, June 13, to assess the actions of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as China continues to increase its military presence in the West Philippine Sea, a part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines. 

“Palagay ko masyado tayong malambot. Masyado tayong malambot sa pag-deal ng mga incursions sa ating… hindi lang sa territory pero pati sa sovereignty,” Robredo said in a chance interview in Tanay, Rizal.

(I think we are being too soft. We are being too soft in dealing with the incursions not just in our territory but our sovereignty.)

Just two days ago, Robredo described China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea as the “most serious external threat to our country since the Second World War.” 

The Vice President has previously criticized the DFA’s decision to silently deal with China, urging the department to file a diplomatic protest.

She also expressed concern after a  GMA News  documentary showed the China Coast Guard taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), which is off the coast of Zambales. 

“Hindi naman tayo nakikipag-away, pero kailangan nating ipaglaban kung ano iyong atin. Parati kong sinasabi ito: Iyong atin, atin iyon. Kapag mayroong violation galing sa iba – kung China man iyan o ibang lugar – kailangan tayong mag-protesta,” said Robredo.

(We’re not out to make them our enemies, but we need to fight for what is ours. I always say this: What’s ours is ours. If there are violations by others – whether China or another country – we must protest.)

In the same interview, Robredo said China’s statement that it allows Filipinos to fish in Panatag Shoal “out of goodwill” should be considered a slap in the face for the Philippines. 

“Ako, ang pakiramdam ko, malaking sampal iyon sa atin. Malaking insulto, kasi bakit ka kailangang manghingi ng permiso sa pangingisda sa pag-aari ng ating bayan?” said Robredo. 

(I feel this is a slap in the face for us. It’s a big insult, because why do we have to ask permission to fish in a place that belongs to our nation?)

A landmark ruling by a Hague tribunal in 2016 already nullified China’s expansive sea claims. The same ruling states that the Philippines, China, and Taiwan all have traditional fishing rights in Panatag Shoal.

But Duterte has so far refused to assert the ruling, choosing instead to strengthen ties with China.

On June 12, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua attended the Independence Day rites with Duterte in Kawit, Cavite. Zhao promised that Chinese coast guard personnel proven to have taken the catch of Filipino fishermen will be “disciplined.”  – 

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.