DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A fishers’ group scored President Rodrigo Duterte “defeatist stand” on confronting China over the West Philippine Sea during his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Although “not surprised” with the President’s remark, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said Duterte “still deserves a strong public condemnation over the admission of treason and continuous violation of the constitution.”
“[Duterte] is nothing but [an] undeserving head [of] a sovereign nation,” Pamalakaya chairperson Fernando Hicap said.
During his fifth SONA on Monday, July 27, Duterte admitted that he is “inutile” on China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea, saying that he could not afford to go to war with China.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration upheld the Philippines’ rights over its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Yet Duterte has not asserted this right over China, as critics see the President swept this issue aside in favor of economic ties and loans with the Chinese government for the government’s infrastructure projects.
“Now, plenty of critics, both sides, claim about nothing has been done to retake forcefully or physically the South China Sea. Alam mo (You know), unless we are prepared to go to war I would suggest that we better just call off and treat this as a diplomatic endeavor,” Duterte said.
But PAMALAKAYA hit the “usual linking” of asserting the Philippines’ sovereign rights on its maritime territory to engaging in a war with China.
“Nobody wants to have a war with any country. What we demand is justice and for the rights of Filipino fishers to be respected in our own territorial waters,” Hicap said.
Hicap said that it only takes political will from the government to advance the interest of the country.
“Apparently, Mr. Duterte is submissive to foreign powers as reflected not only by his foreign policies to China, now with an open declaration of puppetry and treason,” Hicap said.
Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also pointed out that other neighboring countries in Southeast Asia –like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia– are asserting their rights to their maritime zones against China’s claims.
“These countries do not go to war against China, and neither does China go to war against these countries,” Carpio pointed out.
“A country does not need to go to war to assert its sovereign rights. There are lawful and peaceful means of asserting sovereign rights,” he explained. (davaotoday.com)