Cayetano on West PH Sea strategy: It’s best to exercise wisdom, not might
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Alan Peter “Compañero” Cayetano on Friday said that when it comes to fighting for our territory against a global superpower, it is best to be wise and not play “mighty.”
“Let’s get things done in the West Philippine Sea based on what is right, not on might! For this we need wisdom and circumspection,” the senator said in a statement.
Cayetano, who served as Foreign Affairs Secretary from 2017 to 2018 under then-President Rodrigo Duterte, said history is a good reference for an “effective and comprehensive” West Philippine Sea strategy.
“We cannot be ignorant of geopolitics,” he said.
“We must be conscious of and sensitive to the dynamics of rival superpowers, yet be assertive that superpowers should not force upon us their way of doing things in the region.”
Cayetano noted that the law is already on the Philippines’ side based on International Law from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and The Hague arbitration award.
Hence, rather than internationalizing the issue, the Philippines must have direct negotiations “sincerely” but also “aggressively” and build China’s confidence in the country.
The short-term goal, Cayetano said, must be to attain peace and stability so that the two nations can finally work jointly towards an acceptable solution in the long-term that is “rule-based and fair to all.”
“Both countries have a large stake in maintaining stability in the region. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, with every country in the whole ASEAN scrambling to get back on its economic feet as soon as possible, peace, order, and stability are essential for steady progress and development,” he said.
‘UN not a venue of enforcement’
As to Senate Resolution 659 filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros last Monday which seeks to urge the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) against China’s harassment of Filipino military personnel in the WPS, Cayetano recommended that the Senate continue the discussion first. =
The UNGA decides on all matters based on consensus, meaning a resolution will only be adopted if all the 193 member states approve.
“Maturity is needed not only in how we approach the problem but also in how we contextualize our approach and strategy. In this regard, I believe not bringing this matter to the UN General Assembly is NOT a sign of weakness but a mark of maturity,” he said.
He said bringing the matter to the UNGA is risky because “anything less than a unanimous vote will only weaken our position and clutter the issues. The UNGA is not a venue of enforcement.”
In a separate statement, Cayetano expressed appreciation to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri for supporting Resolution 659 but said he is confident that after the caucus on Monday in which the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) will give the senators a briefing, “he will see that a lot of things are being done by the government on the West Philippine Sea issue.”
During the discussion on the resolution on Wednesday, Cayetano joined senators in expressing outrage over China’s bullying in the WPS but urged the Senate to proceed carefully because the President, as the chief diplomat, has not even expressed his desire to take the matter to the UN.
National Security Adviser Eduardo Año meantime said the issue must be clearly thought out first before any action is taken, particularly on bringing the matter to the UNGA.
“Ito ay patuloy na discussion na ginagawa particularly sa security group. And we are also consulting stakeholders,” Año said.