Robredo: Duterte should’ve explained how to assert rights over West PH Sea in Sona
Vice President Leni Robredo said President Rodrigo Duterte should have explained the steps the administration have been taking to protect the country’s rights over West Philippine Sea in his State of the Nation Address (Sona).
On the sidelines of Tuesday evening’s book launching of Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case against China written by veteran journalist Marites Danguilan-Vitug, the vice president noted Mr. Duterte should have taken the opportunity during Sona to tell Filipinos how the government would defend the country’s sovereignty.
“Sinasabing ipapaglaban, pero hindi natin alam kung paano, paano ipapakipaglaban iyong sovereignty natin. Hindi niya iyon na-discuss. So iyong mga detalyeng ganoon, iyong expectations sana natin.. iyon iyong hinihintay ng tao, sana nabigyan ng mas mahabang detalye,” Robredo told reporters.
The President in his Sona on Monday said that even if the country has an improved relationship with China, “it does not mean that we will waver in our commitment to defend our interest in the West Philippine Sea.”
The Duterte administration has been criticized for squandering the gains of the landmark The Hague ruling two years ago in exchange for economic investments and closer ties with China.
In 2016, the Philippines won a stunning victory on its maritime case against China, which invalidated the regional power’s nine-dash line in the South China Sea.
“It is difficult to explain how such a landmark victory for our nation, as well as for the rule of law, can be casually dismissed by our own government. It is no exaggeration to say that leaders and experts from different corners of the world waited with bated breath for the international ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration a little more than two years ago,” Robredo said in her speech at the book launch.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano claimed they have filed protests against Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea, but refused to disclose it publicly because it didn’t want to embarrass the regional power in a shouting match.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said last week they have recommended “plenty” of West Philippine Sea incidents for diplomatic action to the Department of Foreign Affairs, but did not say the status of these.
“Kahit anong assurance na ibigay sa atin na may ginagawa, kailangang makita natin. Hanggang wala tayong nakikitang ebidensyang ginagawa, hindi tayo nakukuntento. Kapag sinabing nagpoprotesta naman tayo, kailangang makumbinsi tayo na talagang nagpoprotesta tayo,” Robredo said.
“Ilang beses nang… ilang beses na iyong mga eksperto nagsasabi sa atin na walang papapuntahan iyong bilateral talks with China dahil sa experience natin in the past. Iyong nakaraang administrasyon, maraming sinubok na bilateral talks, pero hindi ito nagwagi, kaya nga nila finile iyong kaso sa Arbitral Tribunal.”
“Ito, iyong inaasahan sana natin na pahalagahan iyong desisyon ng Tribunal, at iyon iyong gawa na springboard para mas mahikayat natin iyong ibang bansa na makipag-ugnayan at makipagtulungan sa atin, para mas malakas iyong boses,” she added.
A Pulse Asia survey conducted last month showed that 73 percent of Filipinos believed that Duterte should assert the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea.
In another survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations, 87 percent of Filipinos believed it was important for the Philippines to take back Chinese-controlled islands in the West Philippine Sea.
‘Be more inclusive’
Robredo rallied on Filipinos “to stand together if we are to respond to this threat successfully and definitively.”
“In the matter of the West Philippine Sea, we need to be as inclusive as possible in considering the points of view of different actors and players. There is no monopoly when it comes to wisdom and insight, and certainly, when it comes to love for country,” Robredo said.
She also thinks that war is not an option in the sea dispute, contrary to the “war or appeasement” narrative often repeated by the administration.
“We believe that the Philippines does not have to go to war; the arbitral tribunal ruling has already set the workings of peace in motion. We just have to find a way to bring our neighbors together to assert the arbitral tribunal ruling, and to widen the circle of advocates for rule of law, to organizations and nations outside of Asia,” she said. /kga
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