PH focus should be on South China Sea, not Sabah: analyst

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2019 03:06 PM

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MANILA - The Philippines is not doing enough in asserting its claim in the South China Sea, an analyst said Friday.

Karim Raslan, founder of the public affairs and political risk consultancy firm, KRA Group, said the Philippines must not get lost in the Sabah claim issue, which he describes as a red herring.

"The real thing is what's happening in the South China Sea? What's happening in the West Philippine Sea and how do Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam deal with China," he said on ANC's Headstart.

The Philippines is among the claimants of the South China Sea, along with Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan, contending with China’s assertion of ownership over nearly all the waters. 

China has been ramping up island-building and militarization activities in the South China Sea, ignoring an international tribunal’s invalidation of its 9-dash line claim in 2016, a ruling that favored a Philippine complaint. 

The Philippines, under President Rodrigo Duterte, has set aside the ruling in pursuit of closer economic ties with China

"To my mind, the Philippines has not leveraged the victory to your interest in terms of oil and gas exploration to the fishermen as well. They are not able to go out and fish. This is grossly unfair," he said.

Raslan said it is important for Manila to leverage and be tougher "in the interest of the Philippines, of the Filipino."

Meanwhile, Raslan also advised the country to be on its toes when dealing with state-owned enterprises from China. 

"The challenge with China is that they expect us to borrow the money to buy their hardware, to buy their construction. But the projects they are encouraging these countries to build, all of them are vastly inflated," he said.

This, after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, during his official visit in Manila, warned countries around the world about the risk of falling into a "debt trap" with China.

"The Philippines, in particular, has so much to gain and the Philippines must learn from the failings in Myanmar, in Malaysia, in terms of trade and investment. Learn from us and make sure you get the best deal out of China because frankly, you can,” he said.