MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile today called for sobriety on the escalating tensions with China over the Spratlys.
Zubiri said the Philippine government should stick to diplomacy to prevent the situation from escalating. "I think dialogue is needed. Let's use diplomatic channels to control tense relationship with China. We should not exaggerate situation more," he said.
The lawmaker said the government cannot be too sure of the support of the US as an ally.
"Problema kasi di po natin alam kung tutulungan tayo ng mga kaibigan natin sa US. Wala tayong armas na maka-defend sa teritoryo. Para tayong maingay na daga kalaban natin elepante," he said.
Zubiri said the Philippines would be in a better diplomatic position if it undertakes a multilateral approach to the situation. He said a diplomatic solution to the standoff should be coursed through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
For his part, Enrile nixed a call by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda to boycott products made in China. He said a boycott would lead to retaliation by the Chinese government.
"Ok yun kung papayagan ng lahat ng Pilipino pero any action like that also has repercussion. They can tell Filipinos in China 'Go home.' Sasabihin din nila lahat ng produkto ng Pilipino sa China boycott din. Ewan ko kung sino matatalo," he said.
"I'd rather tone down the rhetoric in order not to exacerbate our already delicate relationship with the People's Republic of China. Bear in mind, we have a healthy trading relationship with China. They're our neighbors," he added.
The Senate President also cautioned China against "any sign of aggressiveness against any country." He said world public opinion will be a factor in the conflict in the South China Sea.
"If its shown they are using strong military capability to undermine interest of a friendly neighbor, then the world will raise their eyebrows."
Enrile said the Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Philippines does not have a provision for automatic retaliation.
"(The MDT) says that even when we invoke it, other party will act in accordance with constitutional processes. That's the difficulty of that agreement. We can say, 'We'll have to ask our Congress'….That's another issue. You better ask them: 'Can we count on you?' Walang automatic retaliatory provision eh," he said.
"Tayo dahan-dahan. Gaya ng sinabi ko, pag mumurahin tayo murahin din natin pero pag sinugod tayo, teka muna, medyo lumayo layo tayo."
Enrile indicated that subjecting the dispute to proceedings at the International Court of Justice may also be a long shot. "Only if they agree. The other parties, they have to agree. Di pwede tayong lang. The ICJ cannot take jurisdiction unless all parties agree."
The Senate President also noted that at the end of the day, it is also a matter of who can defend the territory they are claiming.
"It's your sea only if you can defend it. That's why sinasabi ng China 'That's my lake. The body of water known as the South China Sea is my lake because I can defend it.'"
He did say though that the US deployment of a destroyer to the disputed area is meant to send a message.
"May ibig sabihin yun. Wag kayo magulo diyan dahil masasangkot kami pagkamagulo kayo."