De Lima hits Duterte’s ‘incoherence’ in South China Sea, West PH Sea policy
Opposition Senator Leila De Lima on Monday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s “incoherence” in government policy on the South China Sea (SCS) and West Philippine Sea (WPS).
De Lima said the President’s declaration that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the SCS and his pronouncement that China is “already in possession” of the disputed waters reflects the government’s incoherence in foreign policy on the SCS and the WPS dispute.
“One day Duterte is asking China what routes it would allow Philippine vessels to take in the disputed waters, the next day he is asserting freedom of navigation with Japan, China’s bitter rival over another disputed area, the East China Sea,” De Lima said in a dispatch from Camp Crame where she is currently detained.
“One day the Philippine President is acting as China’s mouthpiece, defending China’s possession of the SCS, the next day he makes a completely contradictory statement in support of freedom of navigation,” she added.
De Lima said this “mixed messaging” does not build confidence in the government’s capacity to “clearly articulate” the country’s interests, adding that the country’s foreign policy on the South China Sea depended on which side of the bed the President gets up after every nap.”
“Most of the time he wakes up favoring China. Once in a while, he wakes up demanding that China should respect freedom of navigation,” De Lima said.
De Lima said that President Duterte may have squandered the Philippines’ “most solid legal ground” against China in the SCS dispute, which is the decision of the The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) rejecting China’s nine-dash line claim and upholding the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone in the WPS.
She added that the President has wasted international legal recognition of the Philippines’ claims over China’s outrageous incursions, in exchange for China’s support to his regime.
“This is Duterte’s most inexcusable act on the WPS dispute, more inexcusable than sleeping on the job,” De Lima said.
“It is already a serious concern that the President napped through several important Association of South East Asian Nationa (Asean) Summit meetings. But it seems that what he does when he is awake should worry us more. And this includes giving away to China the Philippines’ rights over the WPS, despite the ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal,” she added. /ee
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