MANILA, Philippines — Bayan Muna called on President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday to demilitarize the South China Sea amid reported incursions in the disputed maritime area.
“The recent report that China’s militia ships remain in the West Philippine Sea despite the diplomatic protests of the Philippines only shows that China completely disregards these diplomatic protests knowing that these are mere ‘jokes’ of Pres. Duterte to delude the Filipino people that he is asserting Philippine interest against China,” Bayan Muna representative Carlos Zarate said in a statement.
“We demand that Pres. Duterte abandon his kowtowing foreign policy to favor China and call for the complete demilitarization of the West Philippine Sea before we totally lose control of our sovereign claims in the area. That is why we cannot have another six years of this defeatist policy under a Marcos-Duterte tandem,” he added, referring to Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who filed his candidacy for president.
Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares, who is eyeing a Senate seat in the 2022 elections, echoed the group’s call.
“The first step in taking back what is ours in the West Philippine Sea is for Pres. Duterte to abandon his foreign policy to kneel before China to pay back his ‘utang na loob’ to China’s Pres. Xi Jinping,” he said.
“The second step is for the Philippines to call for the complete demilitarization of the South China Sea which should require the dismantling of all the disputant’s military installations in the area, whether these are the installations of China, Vietnam, the Philippines and any other country,” Colmenares went on.
According to Colmenares, the government can lodge a resolution in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly “to demilitarize the South China Sea similar to the UN demilitarization projects in many countries through the years.”
“After demilitarizing the South China Sea, then all disputants can sit down and arrive at the peaceful resolution of the issue. China will refuse a peaceful resolution of the dispute if it continues to have military superiority in the SCS (South China Sea),” Colmenares noted.
He likewise urged presidential and senatorial bets, seeking to run in the 2022 polls, to declare if they are in favor or not of Duterte’s foreign policy.
“We also ask all presidential and senatorial candidates, especially the Marcos-Duterte tandem to categorically declare whether they are in favor or against Pres. Duterte’s West Philippine Sea foreign policy to favor China,” he said.
“In another six years we may lose control of all our marine wealth to China if we elect another president who will continue this pro-China policy,” he added.
Colmenares also said that the resources in the South China Sea could be used to assist Filipinos in terms of education and healthcare, among others, and boost the recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A Marcos and Duterte presidency in 2022 will ensure that these resources will go to China and not to our people,” he said.
Colmenares said that the South China Sea has at least 160 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 12 billion barrels of oil. Kalayaan Island Group’s commercial fisheries, meanwhile, produce P30.5 billion yearly and 92,000 metric tons of fish per annum which could feed 2.3 million Filipinos.