West Philippine Sea

Duterte admin’s ‘confusion’ over West PH Sea ‘dangerous’ – ex-senator Biazon

Mara Cepeda
Duterte admin’s ‘confusion’ over West PH Sea ‘dangerous’ – ex-senator Biazon

Former senator Rodolfo Biazon attends the Philippine Military Academy's alumni homecoming ceremony on February 17, 2018.

File photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Ex-senator Rodolfo Biazon warns China may end up assuming the Philippines has already 'given up the pursuit of our interest' in the West Philippine Sea

Former military general-turned-senator Rodolfo Biazon said the Duterte government’s “confusing” approach to Chinese militarization of the West Philippine Sea poses a great risk for Filipinos. 

On Wednesday, May 19, Biazon asked Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to convene the National Security Council (NSC) so the country could come up with a “clear, united, national position” on the West Philippine Sea.

The West Philippine Sea is part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines but Beijing is falsely claiming as its own. 

“So right now, we are confused. That is dangerous! We are not only confusing ourselves; we are also confusing potential allies in our pursuit of our national interests in the area,” said Biazon.

“We are confusing our potential, our adversary, meaning China, because if they are confused, they might mount a dangerous move, thinking that we have given up the pursuit of our interest in the South China Sea,” said the former senator. 

The 86-year-old Biazon went all the way to the Senate on Wednesday hoping to meet with Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of police and current chair of the Senate committee on national defense and security, peace, unification, and reconciliation.

Unfortunately, Lacson was still presiding over a Commission on Appointments hearing when Biazon came. Since Biazon could no longer wait for Lacson, the former senator’s staff recorded a video of his message instead. Biazon plans to set another appointment with Lacson. 

Biazon knows all too well the high stakes involved in China’s unsanctioned incursions in the West Philippine Sea. 

In 2015, Biazon – as then-Muntinlupa congressman and chair of the House committee on national defense and security – had been part of the Philippines’ powerhouse team that defended the country’s historical case against Beijing over the West Philippine Sea before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands. 

The Philippines would go on to win its case against China in 2016, with the arbitral tribunal junking Beijing’s expansive claim over the South China Sea.

Five years later, incumbent President Duterte has repeatedly downplayed this court victory in favor of getting loans and grants from his “friend” Beijing. 

He claims that insisting on the Philippines’ legal triumph would only spark war with China. 

The President even belittled the ruling and said he would throw it in the waste bin, a statement that some senators believe diminishes the current efforts of his Cabinet officials to file diplomatic protests and demand that China leave the West Philippine Sea. 

Biazon agreed with these senators, saying the Duterte government’s “confused” position over the maritime issue makes it difficult for policy makers and national program implementors like the military to do their job of upholding Philippine sovereignty.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the chamber “can support” Biazon’s call to push for the convening of the NSC.

“I suppose the Senate can support the call. I’ll refer the proposal to our national defense committee,” Sotto told reporters.

Senator Grace Poe also backed Biazon’s call, saying convening the NSC as soon as possible “would be a timely intervention.”

“We cannot be divided as a nation when we talk about our sovereignty…. This is the country’s resources we are talking about. There shouldn’t be any debate as to whether we should protect it or not. There is only one constitutional answer — we should. The only thing left for us to discuss now is how,” Poe said in a statement. – Rappler.com

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 mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.