Go easy on the blame game, Angara tells officialsBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Senator Edgardo Angara on Tuesday cautioned against prematurely blaming China for the maritime accident in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) that left a Filipino fisherman dead and four others missing.
Whether a Chinese vessel was responsible, Senator Gregorio Honasan said the incident showed that the dispute over the Scarborough Shoal was a “global issue” and, as such, the United States and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) should be on board in negotiations.
Hong Kong vessel
“We should first verify if China was indeed responsible for this incident to avoid inflaming territorial tensions which could dampen our efforts to resolve the issue diplomatically,” Angara, vice chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said in a statement.
On Monday, the Philippine Coast Guard said a Hong Kong-registered commercial vessel may be the one that struck a Philippine fishing boat off Bolinao, Pangasinan province, on June 20.
“Whoever is answerable for the death of the Filipino fisherman must be held liable,” Angara said. “We cannot allow anyone, even China, to bully us in our own territory,” he said.
“Nonetheless,” he said, “we must not give up on the possibility of resolving this territorial dispute—and others we are embroiled in—in a peaceful manner, without jeopardizing our country’s best interests.”
Position of strength
Honasan said the Philippines should “negotiate from a position of strength” over the Scarborough dispute by tapping its economic and security allies such as southeast Asian countries and the United States.
He said the Philippines could not go against China “one on one.”
“If we relegate control over this area to the Chinese—I’m not exaggerating—what if they put up a toll gate (in the area)? Then we would all be forced to pay up and I don’t think America would allow that,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
Honasan said the Philippines should be open to a joint exploration of the disputed area together with other claimant countries.
What does China want?
“What is Scarborough Shoal?” he asked. “I understand that is a pile of about four or five rock formations. The question is: Why is China so interested in that? Do they know something that we do not?”
He went on: “Obviously there’s oil, there is natural gas. But what else is there that they need and which we could also use?”
Honasan added: “I think it’s not only a question of territorial integrity or sovereignty. There is something there that is economically important even for a big country like China. And if this is important to them, it is even more important to us because we want to spur our economy.”
Tags: Accidents , Benigno Aquino , China , Edgardo Angara , Foreign affairs , Global Nation , Government , Hong Kong , maritime dispute , MV Peach Mountain , Pangasinan Boat Sinking , Philippine Coast Guard , Philippines , Scarborough shoal , West Philippine Sea