China's decision to pass a law that allows its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels is a cause for concern, Senator Risa Hontiveros said Monday as she asserted the Philippines' sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.
"It's really a very negative development not only in the context of the ongoing pandemic kung saan mayroon naman silang charm offensive, vaccine diplomacy na isinasagawa, but also in the context of long-standing tensions in the WPS and in the whole South China Sea," Hontiveros said in an online interview.
"Hindi nakakatuwa na sa gitna ng pandemya ay nagpasa sila ng ganitong batas. Habang nilalako ng China ang mga bakuna nila bilang 'global public good' umano, ibinabasura naman nila ang natitirang kapayapaan sa West Philippine Sea. Paano natin ngayon masisigurado na ang mga bakunang bibilhin at ibibigay ng Tsina ay walang halong kapalit?”
The opposition senator emphasized that China should ease the tensions in the disputed waters instead of escalating them.
Nonetheless, she said the Department of National Defense should prepare a strategy for the worst-case scenario.
"Ibig sabihin ba ng bagong batas ng Tsina, the next time na gusto nilang ilubog ang fishing vessel natin, o iwan ang mangingisda natin sa dagat, hindi lang nila sasagasaan, babarilin na lang?" Hontiveros said.
"We must not allow China to shake our hand on vaccine procurement, but stab us in the back on the West Philippine Sea," she added, stressing that the Philippines should not be beholden to any foreign power.
The senator maintained that the country stands firm on the 2016 ruling of The Hague tribunal which invalidated China's massive claims in the South China Sea.
China's legislative body passed the Coast Guard Law last week which allows its maritime forces to use "all necessary means" to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels.
According to a Reuters report, the bill that was published earlier specifies the circumstances under which different kind of weapons—hand-held, ship borne or airborne—can be used; allows coast guard personnel to demolish other countries' structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs and to board and inspect foreign vessels in waters claimed by China; and empowers the coastguard to create temporary exclusion zones "as needed" to stop other vessels and personnel from entering. —KBK, GMA News