Citizen diplomacy needed amid superpowers clash

By Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jun 08 2015 01:31 PM | Updated as of Jun 09 2015 07:58 AM

Filipino women should confront China, says Shahani

Former Senators Leticia Ramos-Shahani and Rene Saguisag chat with Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares at the launch of P1NAS (Pilipinong Nagkakaisa para sa Soberanya), which aims to rally Filipinos to stand up against China, the United States and other powers out to make Philippine waters and Southeast Asian sea lanes an arena for their supremacy games. Photo by Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA - Formal diplomacy and tiptoeing around protocols are not going to help the Philippines thwart a bristling giant encroaching on its waters and islands, according to former senator and veteran diplomat Leticia Ramos-Shahani.

Shahani, who is ailing, delivered a fiery speech at the launch of P1NAS, a new alliance to defend Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity, and strengthen efforts to forge an independent foreign policy.

“We need a mass movement,” she said. “Citizen diplomacy is needed to thwart the power play in the West Philippine Sea.”

Shahani dismissed what she described as timid government moves in the face of China’s encroachment. She challenged Filipino women activists to ride bancas and face the might of the Chinese Navy, which has been known to harass Filipino vessels in disputed waters.

Aside from Shahani, former senators Rene Saguisag and Victor Ziga, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, artists Heber Bartolome and Bibeth Corteza attended the launch with leaders of militant groups and academic organizations.

The alliance is spearheading the June 12 Independence Day twin “Tindig P1NAS/Hands Off” protests at the Embassy of China in Makati, followed by a caravan to the United States Embassy on Roxas Blvd, Manila. The group said the protests will be nationwide.

“In the last few years, we have seen how China has committed blatant acts of aggression by imposing its baseless and arrogant claim of owning 90 percent of the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea,” said a statement of the alliance.

It accused the US of being “partisan to China, because it has far larger interests in its relations with China than with those in the Philippines.”

“But it is also using China as a bogey to justify increased military presence in the Philippines even as it uses the Philippines as a leverage against China.”

INTERNATIONAL CASE


Saguisag expressed hope of a Philippine victory in United Nations (UN) arbitration efforts. The Philippines has asked a UN-backed tribunal to void the Asian superpower's 9-dash line claim over South China Sea.

Shahni, however, cautioned against leaving multilateral agencies and foreign allies to resolve the issue.

“China has the power to say, ‘No’,” Shahani pointed out.

“Among international organizations, power is the language among nations,” said the former senator. “Power speaks. China is a permanent member of the US Security Council.” The Asian superpower has veto rights over any UN resolution.

Shahani also cautioned against over-dependence on the United States or any allied power.

Even mutual defense treaties won’t guarantee direct military aid, she said. The islands in the West Philippine Sea, she noted, won’t be automatically defended, precisely because they are disputed.

“Let us wake up Filipinos,” Shahani said. “Let us rely on ourselves.”

INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY

Saguisag stressed that “an independent foreign policy” is a constitutional mandate.

He said the recent US pivot to Asia, China’s expansionism, Russia’s plans to hold military exercises in 2016 and even Japan’s review of its pacifist constitution should concern Filipinos.

Both former senators and Colmenares said China needs to be sent a strong message from Filipino citizens.

At the same time, they stressed that friendship is not the chief motivation of the US or Japan.

“We will support a peaceful resolution to the problem,” Colmenares said. “But let us have no illusions about these offers of aid.”

He said the US will not back the Philippines in the maritime dispute. What it is after is freedom of navigation for its commercial and military fleets, the party-list representative stressed.