President Rodrigo Duterte will be held accountable if he gives up the sovereign rights of the country in agreements he intends to pursue with China, lawmakers said.
"We definitely will be against the President giving up sovereign rights over these islands..mananagot siya sa bayan, mananagot siya sa lahat [He will be held accountable by the nation, by everyone]," Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza said during a press briefing on Wednesday.
Duterte is currently in China for a state visit and there is talk there might be an agreement on the disputed waters.
Earlier, the President said that the country cannot match China's might when it comes to fighting for the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
There were also reports that China is considering giving Filipino fishermen access to the disputed waters.
Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin, however, warned the Duterte administration against entering into a joint exploration venture with the Chinese government, stressing it should first focus on asserting the favorable decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the West Philippine Sea.
"A joint exploration with China while skipping around the issue of how to resolve Chinese incursion into the West Philippine Sea is tantamount to giving up our sovereign claims," he said.
"Winning our case at the UN Arbitral Tribunal and asserting it will fulfill the constitutional mandate of having an independent foreign policy. But asking permission from China so we can fish on our own waters degrades our status as a sovereign nation and will subject us to international ridicule," he added.
SELLING OUT AND CORRUPTION
The lawmaker also warned the administration against "selling out" Philippine sovereignty in exchange for promises of investments.
"At this critical juncture when continuing Chinese aggression has compromised our territorial integrity, specifically in Panatag Shoal, any large-scale investment deal with China will be seen as a sellout move," he said.
"Such reported deal brings back memories of the aborted NBN-ZTE scandal which reeked of corruption right from the start and the Northrail project for which the Philippines overpaid the Chinese contractor for unfinished work," he added.
Villarin also said Duterte should be transparent in what commitments were put on the table during his China visit, citing cases wherein the superpower failed to fulfill its promises to other countries.
"In Uganda, the Chinese government committed to invest in an ambitious USD1.5-billion eco-city project in 2008, but it never materialized," he said.
"Reputable business publications reported that Chinese investments in African mining ventures never generated decent jobs for the locals, and even lacked transparency and competitive bidding processes--both of which can be seen as points of wide scale corruption," he added.
Duterte had earlier said that the Philippines will not relinquish its claims to the South China Sea despite it seeking closer ties with Beijing.