Four presidential aspirants in the May 2022 elections on Saturday aired their views on the controversial West Philippine Sea issue hounding the relationship between the Philippines and China.
Appearing on The Presidential Interviews by Jessica Soho, Vice President Robredo, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno's answers ranged from building alliances with others countries to intensifying military presence in the region.
Lacson reiterated the need for alliances with countries with strong military capacity as he emphasized that The Hague ruling on the West Philippine Sea is “unimplementable.”
“Kailangan dumulog tayo at magpalakas tayo ng alliances with the military-strong countries like United States, European Union countries, Japan, Australia at marami pa,” he said.
(We need to seek and strengthen alliances with the military-strong countries like United States, European Union countries, Japan, Australia, and many more.)
Apart from this, he said that the government should capitalize on the national interest of each country in the WPS.
“Balance of power ang kailangan sa West Philippine Sea. Ang foreign policy naka-anchor lagi sa national interest, i-capitalize natin yung national interest ng iba’t-ibang bansa dahil kailangan din freedom of navigation, diyan dumdaan yung 10 to 12% ng international trade. So doon tayo kumuha ng lakas kasi hindi nayin kayang harapin ang China rito,” he explained.
(We need a balance of power in the West Philippine Sea The foreign policy should be anchored on our national interest. We should capitalize on the national interest of different countries as we need freedom of navigation. Ten to 12% of international trade passes through the WPS. So we need to get our strength from there because we cannot face China alone.)
‘Don’t be bullied’
For his part, Pacquiao said the Philippines should never let itself be bullied by China when it comes to territorial issues in the West Philippine Sea.
During the same program, Pacquiao emphasized that the Philippines should strongly assert its territorial rights in the resource-rich region.
"Unang-una po ipaglaban natin 'yong karapatan natin. Hindi naman tayo puwede magpa-bully," Pacquiao said.
The retired boxing champion also said more discussions should be done to finally address the issue in the West Philippine Sea.
"Kailangan din pag usapan kung ano 'yong mga problema, kasi hindi po naresolba ang problema sa isang pag uusap o dalawang pag-uusap," Pacquiao said.
(The problem needs to be discussed further because a problem will not be resolved just by having one or two discussions.)
"Lalong lalo na pagdating sa usapin na itong West Philippine Sea, kailangan maraming dialogue, maraming pag-uusap para magkaintindihan kasi matagal na 'yang problema na 'yan at hindi natin maresolba-resolba, kasi wala pong pag-uusap," he added.
(The issue in the West Philippine Sea needs more dialogue. This has since been a problem and it cannot be resolved because of lack of discussions.)
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, following a case filed by the Philippines, invalidated China's sweeping claims over the waters.
China, however, continues to ignore the arbitration ruling as it describes the decision as “illegal and invalid.”
Coalition of nations
Meanwhile, Robredo said she will use the country’s 2016 Hague court victory to form a coalition of nations against China’s militarization of the West Philippine Sea.
Robredo was referring to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in July 2016 which junked China's nine-dash claim in the South China Sea. In the same ruling, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, and Recto (Reed) Bank are within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Matagal na akong naglalabas ng statements dito at lagi kong inuulit ulit na kailangan 'yung desisyon na yon i-leverage na natin. I-leverage natin para makabuo tayo ng coalition of nations. Ang daming kumakampi sa atin because of the arbitral ruling,” Robredo said.
(I have been saying this repeatedly, that our court victory should be our leverage. We should use this as a leverage in forming a coalition of nations. A lot of nations have expressed support to us because of our court victory.)
“Pag-isahin natin 'yung coalition of nations para sabay-sabay nating harangin 'yong ginagawang militarization ng West Philippine Sea. Meron tayong armas: ang armas natin 'yong ating pinanalunan and sa atin ito 'yong armas natin para mahikayat 'yong ibang bansa na tulungan tayo, para sabay-sabay nating harangin 'yong ginagawang pagsakop ng ating teritoryo,” she added.
(We have to form a coalition of nations so we can jointly stop China’s militarization of the West Philippine Sea. We have a weapon: our weapon is our court victory, and we will use our court victory to convince other nations to join us in our fight to stop aggression in our territory.)
For his part, Moreno vowed to intensify the presence of Armed Forces in the maritime disputed areas.
He also assured that Filipino fishermen can freely catch fish in the country’s maritime waters.
“In a civilized world, in a civilized time we are guided by law and order. Pabor sa atin 'yong Hague dapat kilalanin nila 'yon. Hindi naman nila kikilalanin, pero sisiguraduhin ko muna first things first food security,” he said.
(The Hague is in our favor, they should recognize that. Despite that they do not recognize it, I'll make sure of the food security.)
“Hindi na lalawak pa kung anuman 'yong mga nakuha nila habang binabawi natin 'yong mga nabawi---nakuha na nila hindi na sila makalalawak,” he added.
(I would not let them expand and we will take back what they got.) — RSJ, GMA News