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Senators: Gov’t cannot raise white flag on West Philippine Sea

Several senators on Tuesday said the government should not raise the white flag or even send “wrong message” of surrender on the West Philippine issue.

“We should raise the Philippine flag in our territory, not the white flag of surrender,” Senator Grace Poe said in a statement.

Poe pointed out that the Philippines must explore all options in asserting sovereignty over the WPS, including seeking support from other countries and allies to protect the natural resources and the fisherfolks.

“We should bring more international attention to the issue. By merely being critical of the massing up of foreign vessels in the West Philippine Sea, we’ve already seen movement among our allies,” she said.

Poe emphasized that the Philippines is not “out of options” in dealing with the territorial dispute, noting the strong statements from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of National Defense (DND) which have effectively reduced the Chinese vessels in the area.

‘Implied surrender’

Senator Panfilo Lacson also pointed out that President Rodrigo Duterte “cannot afford” to send wrong message of “implied surrender or resignation” on the territorial dispute with China.

"He’s the leader of our country and he’s the commander-in-chief of our armed forces. He can think of anything and speak about anything except surrender,” Lacson said in an interview on CNN-Philippines.

“Remember, we have an arbitral ruling in our favor and it’s permanent although it’s unenforceable. There are so many things to think about except surrender. We cannot wave the white flag, so to speak," he added.

Although he is not saying that Duterte is actually raising the white flag, Lacson said the President’s latest remark on the WPS dispute gives that “implication.”

“If the officers and men of the AFP would take it that way, it could be disastrous to Philippine sovereignty," he emphasized.

Similar to Poe’s statement, Lacson said Philippines can build alliances with other countries specifically Japan which also has a territorial issue with China.

Aside from Japan, joint military exercises with the United States and Australia may be conducted to build stronger alliances.

“Let’s work along that line. We should not feel we’re alone. We cannot really win a war against China. Population-wise less than 1/10 tayo ng China. And military-wise, talagang no contest. But why would we sulk in a corner and think along that line when there are stronger countries, even Europe, they are willing to assist us through the European Union?" he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros lamented that Duterte has already surrendered the sovereignty of the Philippines.

“Sinuko na ng Presidente ang soberanya ng Pilipinas…Sa halip na singilin ang Beijing, tinutustusan pa ni Presidente ang ambisyon ng China tungo sa imperyalismo,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

(The President has already surrendered the sovereignty of the Philippines. Instead of complaining against Beijing, the President has helped the imperialist ambition of China.)

“Duwag ba siya o traydor? (Is he a coward or a traitor) Either way, he has failed our country. He has failed to defend our sovereignty, our seas, our people,” she pointed out.

Hontiveros said the Filipinos must not allow the President to give up the sovereignty like a “loose change” and the public should not accept that he only has war as an option to win the territorial dispute.

The opposition lawmaker recalled Duterte’s 2016 remark where he said he would ride a jet ski to plant Philippine flags on the disputed territories in the WPS.

“Sabi niya dati, mag-jejet ski siya papuntang West Philippine Sea, hindi naman ginawa. Wala parin nga siyang ginagawa, tapos surrender na kaagad?” she twitted.

(At first, he said he would ride a jet ski to go to the West Philippine Sea, but he didn't do it. He has not done anything yet, then he would surrender already?)

In a televised Cabinet briefing Monday night, Duterte broke his silence on the recent tension mounting in the WPS.

He said nothing will happen even if he sails to the disputed waters, adding that claiming possession of the are would be “bloody.” — RSJ, GMA News