The Philippine government could lose the advantage it had gained in the arbitral tribunal ruling on the the South China Sea if it did not take a firmer stand against China's continuing construction of artificial islands in the Spratlys, a former lawmaker warned on Friday.
"Tingin ko naman ay masyadong mahina 'yung statement ni [Presidential Spokesperson HarryRoque]. Ang kailangang i-assert natin 'yung sovereignty natin. Hindi kailangan hintayin natin kung kailan sila aalis. Kailangan mas matibay ang ating paninidigan na ipag-laban natin 'yung ating teritoryo," former House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada III told GMA News TV progtram "Balitanghali".
"At 'yun sana ang ipag-laban natin at gamitin natin 'yung desisyon ng Arbitral Tribunal eh sayang naman 'yung pinaghirapan ng ating bansa," he added.
Roque had said earlier that the Philippines would, in the future, thank China for building the structures. “Clearly, eventually, those artificial islands will be ours if we can ask China to leave,” the president's spokesperson had reasoned.
However, Tañada countered, "Tingin ko, kung hindi natin ipapakita yung ating pagmamahal sa ating sariling teritoryo, eh mawawala tayo sa standing ng international community niyan... Nasa atin talaga kung tayo ay naniniwala sa pinaglalaban natin, kailangan nating ipiit through peaceful means."
As to the Duterte administration's decision to temporarily set aside the ruling to avoid a confrontation with China, Tañada said China was violating agreements indirectly by continuing to set up additional structures as it continued talks with the Philippines.
"Dapat itigil natin 'yung ganiyang pag-iisip. Dahil sa ngayon habang tayo ay kumakausap sa China ay patuloy nga nilang ine-expand, baghamat sinasabi nila na walang structures pero 'yung nakatayo ngayon, lalong minomodernize," he said.
"Ngayon nga, imagine, militarized na 'yung area. Nilalagyan pa ng fighter planes. So 'yan ay isang, I would say, a violation indirectly sa pinaguusapan."
The Philippines won the arbitration case against China's nine-dash line claim over South China Sea in 2016, though China had refused to honor the decision. — Margaret Claire Layug/DVM, GMA News