Senators react to foreign backing on WPS row
MANILA, Philippines — Japan’s and Australia’s expression of support for the Philippines’ position against China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) drew mixed reactions from senators, with one saying it boded well for a “multilateral alliance” in the region, but another said the country’s allies must “put their money where their mouth is.”
“There is greater strength in numbers especially when confronting an economic power such as China,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan told the Inquirer on Friday as he expressed his gratitude to Japan and Australia for “standing with us in our assertion of our lawful claim over our exclusive economic zone (EEZ).”
“Building multilateral alliances in support of our defense of our internationally recognized EEZ is the effective way to confront China’s aggression,” Pangilinan said in a Viber message.
“There are numerous ways of asserting our internationally recognized rights without having to go to war,” he said.
Besides enlisting the support of Japan and Australia, “we should also strengthen our efforts in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations),” Pangilinan said.
But Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, said he wanted a more concrete demonstration of support for the Philippine cause from its regional allies.
“Our ‘allies’ can help us modernize our coast guard as well as BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) sea vessels so we can better patrol our EEZ areas, which these ‘allies’ say they agree with/support,” Pimentel told the Inquirer.
“That is putting your money where your mouth is,” he said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Philippine government should stand its ground in defending its sovereign rights.
“Stay strong. Patrol our EEZ. Protect our fishermen, then start our own explorations!” he told the Inquirer, referring to his earlier proposal that Manila begin exploring for oil and gas in waters within its EEZ.
On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga “expressed his opposition to the continued and strengthened unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea” during a summit teleconference with President Duterte.
Suga “shared grave concerns about recent developments in China, including the Coast Guard Law.”
In a CNN Philippines interview, Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson said: “We are strong supporters of the arbitral award. And, of course, we hold with the Philippines’ position as outlined at the UN.”
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