Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte must end “policy of dependence” on Beijing, lawmakers and foreign policy experts have said, warning that the Philippine leader’s silence is signaling the wrong way. as hundreds of Chinese “militia” ships continue to gather in the Manila exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea.
While some Philippine officials, including the country’s top diplomat and Defense Minister, have openly asked Chinese ships to immediately leave the country’s waters, Mr. Duterte kept quiet. silence for weeks.
In a speech on Thursday night, Mr. Duterte made no mention of the South China Sea. His spokesman had previously said that the president prefers to pursue his “diplomatic initiatives” in “private affairs”.
Earlier, on Thursday, the Philippine Coast Guard revealed that despite repeated requests by Manila to require Chinese ships to leave the Whitsun Reef, at least 240 Chinese ships remained inside. areas and surrounding waters as of Wednesday.
The first vessel was discovered on Day 7 at Whitsun Reef, which is about 320km (200 miles) west of Palawan Island and in the Philippine EEZ in accordance with the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague. Since first reported sightings, the ships have scattered over an even wider area.
In a statement on Thursday, Sen. Leila de Lima, an opposition member, warned that the Philippines could become “another Chinese satellite” if Mr. Duterte and the military do not confront China. .
Mr. De Lima said that despite the US show of support for Manila’s stance in the South China Sea, Mr. Duterte’s “tough policy against China” could be detrimental to the integrity of the Philippine territory. .
For nearly 70 years, the Philippines has maintained a joint defense pact with the United States. But since Mr. Duterte took power in 2016, he has fostered closer ties with China and has openly disregarded Washington, even threatening to end the US-Philippine military alliance.
Risa Hontiveros, another opposition senator, said that it was time for Mr. Duterte to confront his “best friend” China for “blatant deception”.
“China really intends to refuse any diplomatic measure to resolve our dispute,” she said.
The Chinese embassy in Manila has stated that what they call a “fishing boat” is just “seeking refuge” near the reef due to bad weather, adding that the area is a traditional fishing ground. Chinese fishermen and it is part of China. The Nansha Islands, or the Spratlys, are also disputed.
Retired Supreme Court judge Antonio Carpio, an international law expert, said that unless Mr. Duterte speaks up and defends the country’s sovereignty, China will not take the Philippines position seriously.
“THE PRIME MINISTER MUST SPEAK, YOU MUST STAND ON YOURSELF, IF YOUR THEMES MAKE CHINA SPEAKERS WILL NOT HEAR”
– Karen Davila (@iamkarendavila) April 15, 2021
“He has to stand up by himself. Because if his subordinates talk, the Chinese won’t listen. And if the president is quiet, then China will continue… the Chinese will consider us seriously if the president speaks, ”Carpio said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel on Thursday. .
Carpio, a member of the Philippine team that won a favorable ruling at The Hague in 2016, also rejected China’s claim that ships in the Philippine EEZ are engaged in fishing.
“The maritime militia ships are controlled by the Chinese government’s payroll maritime militia. In fact, the maritime militia was under the command of [Chinese] navy, ”he said.
The Court of La Hay said the Philippines had exclusive control over the resources in its EEZ. However, that ruling was rejected by China as “null and void”, which continued to claim sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea under its so-called “nine dash line”.
Liz Derr, co-founder and CEO of Simularity, an American, said that if the Duterte administration’s “weak approach” in confronting China, many other features in the exclusive economic zone. Philippines may be taken over in the future. The geospatial company has been monitoring incursions in the South China Sea.
China has built naval and air facilities on a man-made island on the Wicker Reef, also within the Philippines’ EEZ. China also created an island at the Scarborough Shoal, controlled by the Philippines until 2012.
“Unfortunately, the Philippines is weak. We have reviewed and recorded what other claimants have done to reinforce their claims, ”Derr said on an online forum hosted by the Manila-based consulting organization, Research Institute. Stratbase ADR Strategy and International Studies.
“We have seen how much weaker the Philippines is in defense [its] territory, compared with other claimants. If this weakness continues, we will inevitably see more features occupied by other countries, ”she pointed out.
Increase the EEZ
Compared to the Philippines, Vietnam strengthened its sovereignty over its exclusive economic zone by building 29 outposts in the Spratlys, she pointed out. Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the South China Sea.
Mr. Derr acknowledged that the Philippines will be unlikely to recover artificial islands built by other countries, including China, in the Manila EEZ.
She urged the Philippine government to protect its exclusive economic zone by occupying the Spratlys’ uninhibited features.
Carpio, a former Supreme Court judge, agrees.
“If not, China will beat us,” he said. “China will just put something there, and we can’t do anything. We should build structures in our EEZ ”.
Meanwhile, former Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said in a statement on Thursday that he shared former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s concerns that the Philippines could become an “object” of China. Quoc could not stand Beijing’s “unruly” and was a bully.
“In our view, Secretary Clinton is absolutely right to express concerns that the Philippines could become an object of China. To the last Filipinos, under the leadership of [Foreign Affairs] Secretary [Teodoro] Locsin and [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana, we must finally stand up to Beijing’s rebelliousness and bullying, ”said del Rosario.
In an interview published Tuesday, Clinton told the Philippine website Rappler that she worries the Philippines will become “a fundamental object of China through financial investments, through purchasing. influence, through the destruction of institutions ”.
“I think there is a real danger that, if left unchecked, the Philippines – whoever the leader is – will increasingly find itself unable to act without China’s approval. I don’t think that’s the future the Philippines wants, ”Clinton told Rappler’s Maria Ressa.