Lacson pushes united tack on West Philippine Sea
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson urged the country’s leaders to stand united on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue and stop bickering in public and exposing what could be exploited as a national weakness.
“Isn’t it sad and ironic that the WPS issue has degenerated into a finger-pointing argument between ex-Justice [Antonio] Carpio and [President Duterte] and not between the Philippines and China? Don’t you just want to cry, Philippines?” Lacson said on Twitter.
The senator posted the tweet after Carpio said in a lawyers’ forum that the President was the main problem in resolving the maritime dispute in the Philippines’ favor because of his subservient attitude to China.
“The sad irony is that instead of Filipinos helping each other, our leaders bicker on the issue of the West Philippine Sea. We should have a united position. Otherwise, we are just showing our weakness, one that China could exploit,” Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense, later said in a radio interview.
No connection to WPS issue
“We should start uniting in upholding our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Vaccines have nothing to do with this issue,” the senator said, referring to the President and Carpio’s exchange about the vaccines China donated to the country.
Lacson said connecting the vaccine donation and the West Philippine Sea issues would result only in division and petty bickering among Filipinos.
At the same time, Lacson maintained that the Philippines must continue to enhance its ties with allies including the United States, Japan, Australia and Europe, to maintain a balance of power in the region.
Take the initiative
He said while the United States had declared that it would support the Philippines as part of its obligations under 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the Philippines needs to take the initiative.
“The United States has indicated it is bound by our Mutual Defense Treaty but it is the Philippines that must make the initiative. The United States cannot be more aggressive than we are in the disputed area,” he said.
But National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. tried to defend the President from Carpio’s criticism.
Esperon disputed Carpio’s claim that the Philippines had lost Sandy Cay to China.
Carpio had blasted Mr. Duterte for remaining “absolutely silent” when China in 2019 seized Sandy Cay, a sandbar located near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island.
“China’s seizure of Sandy Cay has resulted in the loss of one-third of our territorial sea in Pag-asa, a loss of maritime area three times larger than the land area of Quezon City. Still the President has declared ‘I simply love President Xi Jinping,’” Carpio said.
Carpio brought up China’s seizure of Sandy Cay in his response to the President’s tirade criticizing him and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario for losing the West Philippine Sea during the 2012 standoff at Panatag Shoal.
Esperon said the Philippines had not lost Sandy Cay which remains “part of Pag-asa Island where we have a civilian and military detachments. And Pag-asa Island, where we have an airport, has four Sandy Cays and we are guarding that.”
“Since 2016, we have not lost an island that was seized by China. Justice Carpio is wrong, what he said was fake news, false news,” he said.
—WITH REPORTS FROM MELVIN GASCON AND LEILA SALAVERRIA
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