Enrile questions impact of diplomatic protests vs China filed by Philippines

John Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2021 08:59 PM

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MANILA - Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Tuesday questioned the significance of diplomatic protests Manila has filed against Beijing regarding the superpower's actions in the South China Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier vowed to file daily protests against the continuing presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, which is Manila's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

Enrile called into question the effectiveness of such diplomatic action.

"I don't know if I'll do the same. Has he gotten anything out of it?" Enrile said when asked for comment on the actions taken by DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr.

"What is the impact of that on China? Will it diminish our right if we do that, make those protest? Or will it add to our rights under the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) if we do those protests?" added the former lawmaker who also served as Defense minister during the Marcos administration, in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile shares his narrative with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte regarding the disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea prior to the President's talk to the people at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on May 17, 2021. Alberto Alcain, Presidential Photo/File

"It's a matter of approach," he said. 

Enrile's statement came a day after he urged President Rodrigo Duterte to keep a "friendly" approach to China in resolving the maritime row in the West Philippine Sea. 

"Kailangan na friendly ang approach natin d’yan, hindi hard assertive and aggressive approach," Enrile had told Duterte in a taped meeting.

He advised Duterte to ignore his critics regarding the issue of China and the West Philippine Sea, claiming the Philippines will lose more if it antagonizes China.

Manila has filed more than 80 diplomatic protests against China since Duterte assumed power in mid-2016, the DFA said.

As Chinese vessels continue to encroach into the Philippines' EEZ in the South China Sea, Duterte is still adamant on a friendly approach towards Beijing.

Duterte forged friendlier relations with China upon assuming power in 2016, even setting aside the landmark arbitral ruling that invalidated Beijing's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea, in exchange for economic aid and investments.

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