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MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said on Wednesday, July 26, that the planned Senate resolution reaffirming the country’s claim of sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will put a “spotlight on China’s unlawful incursions.”
“Should we successfully pass a resolution before the UNGA, we will in effect be solidifying international support for the sovereignty of the Philippines, and putting pressure on China to keep their military and political activities outside of our Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf,” Zubiri said in his sponsorship speech of Resolution No. 659 filed by Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros.
The Senate President said this despite some senators opposing the move. Senator Alan Cayetano, who served as the Duterte administration’s foreign affairs chief from 2017 to 2018, said that elevating any complaint to the UN could backfire on the Philippines.
“Hindi po usapan dito kung gusto nating lumaban. Ang question dito, ano ang effective na laban. I’m not anti-anyone. I’m pro-Philippines. Ang Pilipinas ay dapat sa Pilipinas,” he said. (The discussion here is not about whether we want to fight them or not. The question here is what is the effective move. I’m not anti-anyone. I’m pro-Philippines. The Philippines is for the Philippines.)
During the interpellation, Cayetano asked Hontiveros why she was zeroing on China. He insisted that even Vietnam and Malaysia are also putting up military facilities in the WPS.
“Kung ang Malaysia at Vietnam ay nasa UNGA din at tayo hindi, then may mukhang may mali tayong ginagawa. Pero kung sila paganda nang paganda ang relationship with China, nagkakaroon sila ng stability sa West Philippine Sea with China, gumaganda economy nila with China, kailangan mag-isip din tayo anong nagiging problema,” Cayetano said.
(If Malaysia and Vietnam are also in UNGA and the Philippine is not, then we’re doing something wrong. But if their relationship with China is improving, they have stable position at the West Philippine Sea with China, their economies are improving with China, then we need to think what the problem is.)
At an ANC interview on Thursday, Hontiveros said she wasn’t surprised that Cayetano is opposing the resolution.
“It was a bit surprising, but then again, given his history sort of easing the Philippine foot on the gas pedal vis-a-vis China, I have to confess I wasn’t completely surprised,” she said.
Cayetano moved to put on hold the approval of the resolution and asked the Senate to discuss this further in an executive session with the Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday, July 31.
Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Loren Legarda backed Cayetano’s stand. They said that while they support the move to condemn China’s harassment, the Senate should be cautious with its next actions as it may trigger tensions between the two countries.
On Thursday, July 27, Senator Imee Marcos, who is the chairman of committee on foreign relations, also backed Cayetano’s move, saying that they should discuss the matter through diplomatic negotiation rather than talking about it publicly.
“Kinakailangan ng very pragmatic and prudent approach… Talagang magtimpi tayo ng galit at kapikunan at kausapin sila nang maayos. ‘Wag na natin inisin nang inisin,” Marcos said. (We need a very pragmatic and prudent approach. We need to temper our anger at talk to them nicely. We should not annoy them.)
Meanwhile, Zubiri was firm about passing a Senate resolution about the issue. Details of which have yet to be finalized.
“The 2016 PCA ruling was a historic triumph for us. But it is a triumph that we have not been able to fully enjoy, as China has disrespected it time and time again, their Chinese militia vessels encroaching upon our territory, and harassing our much smaller Coast Guard and Navy vessels,” he said. – Rappler.com