‘Ang atin ay atin’: Duterte policy on West Philippine Sea wrong, say Senate hopefuls

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 19 2021 02:48 AM | Updated as of Nov 19 2021 05:06 AM

MANILA—The government should take a stronger stance against China over the West Philippine Sea dispute, especially in light of recent developments in the area.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. confirmed that Chinese coast guard vessels blocked and used water cannons against Filipino supply boats that were transporting food supplies to Filipino military personnel based in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

Dr. Minguita Padilla said the Philippines should cooperate with other countries that have interests in the South China Sea.

"Ang atin ay atin. Atin ’yan. Hindi natin dapat ibigay. In fact, ang daming beses na, maraming nasisira na, pati mga coral reefs, mga clams natin, ’yung mga yamang-dagat natatanggal, pati ating pagkain naapektuhan. So talagang dapat matatag tayo at maging firm sa ating stand na atin ay atin," Padilla said in a roundtable interview with other senatorial hopefuls on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo Thursday.

(What's ours is ours. That's ours. We shouldn't give it away. In fact, a lot of areas there have been destroyed. The coral reefs, the clams, our maritime resources, even our food supply is affected. So we should really be strong and firm that what's ours is ours.)

"May membership ng maraming maraming mga bansa ay magkapit-bisig tayo to help each other. Isang bansa lang ang China, hindi naman makikipag-giyera 'yan sa atin eh kasi marami tayo. There's strength in numbers and all of us have to get together, come together to make the proper claims. This is international waters. Kung international waters, hindi nila pwedeng ipagkait sa lahat ng tao sa mundo 'yung mga dagat na hindi naman dapat sa kanila. Ours is ours, international waters is international waters," Padilla added.

(We should cooperate with other countries to help each other. China is only one country, it will not wage war against us because there are many of us. There's strength in numbers and all of us have to get together, come together to make the proper claims. This is international waters. If these are international waters, they cannot prohibit the rest of the world from using the sea that's not theirs. Ours is ours, international waters is international waters.)

Padilla said the current administration's stance against China has been ineffective.

"Actually mali kasi binabastos na tayo. Alam niyo when you make a strong stand, like Vietnam, for example, hindi naman ibig sabihin giyera talaga ’yan. Ibig sabihin magkakaroon sila ng respeto sa atin sa ngayon. I think the reason why there's not much respect is para tayong pushover. We should assert our rights. Hindi tayo dapat matakot," she said.

(The government's stance has been a mistake, because they’ve disrespected us. You know if we make a strong stand, like Vietnam, for example, it doesn't mean we are looking for war. That just means they will respect us. I think the reason why there's not much respect is because we look like a pushover. We should assert our rights. We shouldn't be scared.)

For Samira Gutoc, it is important for the country to strengthen its border security and continue in actively asserting our rights in the West Philippine Sea.

"Border control. Lakasan po ang border control, ang ating security. Lakasan po ang affirmation, documentary filing natin, embassy to embassy. Ang ating stance, kailangan diplomatic pero strong din ang presence in the seas. Dapat ang Philippine Coast Guard ay nandiyan din sa ating WPS," Gutoc said.

(Border control, we need to strengthen our border control, our security. We should continue affirming our rights. Our stand should be diplomatic but we should also have strong presence in the seas. Our Philippine Coast Guard should also be there in the WPS.)

She said the Philippines should work with the rest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in protecting the seas.

"Kailangan po actively, actively questioning and asserting, at if possible 'yung ating mga delegation, 'yung ating mga representante din sa Kongreso ay nagiging representate towards China in questioning and also seeking bilateral partnerships po among us in ASEAN who have the common interest to protect the seas and assert our own territorial zone," Gutoc added.

(We need to actively question and assert. If possible, our delegates, our representatives in Congress should also represent us in questioning China and seeking bilateral partnerships among us in the ASEAN who have a common interest to protect the seas and assert our own territorial zone.)

Atty. Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno said the Philippines should also have multilateral agreements with other countries to give it more leverage against China.

"Tingin ko ang tamang solusyon sa problemang ito ay gawin nating multilateral ang pakikipag-usap natin diyan sa isyu ng West Philippine Sea. Mali ang naging approach nitong pamahalaan na ginawa nilang bilateral dahil luging-lugi tayo sa negotiation. Napakalaki ng China, tayo naman ay hindi ganoon at hindi tayo superpower. We need to get the help of our neighboring states who also have an interest in that area. Kailangan manindigan tayo," Diokno said.

(I think the right solution to this problem is to have multilateral agreements on the issue of the West Philippine Sea. The current bilateral approach of the government is wrong because we are on the losing end of the negotiation. China is a big country, and we are not like that, we are not a superpower. We need to get the help of our neighboring states who also have an interest in that area. We need to affirm our right.)

For former Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, the Philippines should strengthen its naval forces, while also taking advantage of its diplomatic ties with other countries.

"Una, ang para sa Pilipinas ay para sa Pilipinas. Ipaglaban natin 'yan. Ikalawa, palakasin natin ang ating Sandatahang Lakas, 'yung ating Navy, 'yung ating border control. Tama 'yung sinabi ni Bai Samira. Palakasin natin ang ating Coast Guard. We are an archipelagic country, palakasin natin 'yan," Bautista said.

(First, what belongs to the Philippines is for the Philippines. We have to fight for that. Second, we have to strengthen our Armed Forces, our Navy, our border control, like what Bai Samira said. We have to strengthen our Coast Guard. We are an archipelagic country, we have to strengthen that.)

"Palakasin natin ang relationship natin with ASEAN at saka 'yung Quad, 'yung bagong Indo-Pacific Security Regime, kasama ang India, Australia, UK saka Japan, South Korea. Palakasin natin 'yan. We need as many countries as possible. We are governed, globally, in the global community, by laws, not just by men. So kailangan palakasin natin 'yan. At kung ano ang para sa Pilipinas, ipaglaban natin 'yan," Bautista added.

(We have to strengthen our ties with ASEAN and with the Quad, the Indo-Pacific Security Regime, along with India, Australia, UK, Japan and South Korea. We have to strengthen that. We need as many countries as possible. We are governed, globally, in the global community, by laws, not just by men. So we have to strengthen that. And we should fight for what's for the Philippines.)

Former Senate secretary Lutgardo Barbo agreed that the current administration's policy on the South China Sea is wrong.

"Ang tingin ko diyan ay mali ang foreign policy ng gobyerno. Mali ang sinasabi ng presidente na ako'y inutil, at mali 'yung sasabihin na 'I will not implement that because that is a mere piece of paper.' 'Yung desisyon ng United Nations Permanent Arbitral Tribunal, is not a mere piece of paper," Barbo said.

(I think the government's foreign policy is wrong. It's wrong for the president to say he cannot do anything about it, and that he will not implement it because it is a mere piece of paper. The decision of the United Nations Permanent Arbitral Tribunal is not a mere piece of paper.)

"At saka dapat ginagamit natin 'yung sinasabing Mutual Defense Treaty with America. And more than that, may mga nag-ooffer na mga European countries. 'Yung France, 'yung Britain, nagsasabi na we are interested because we are using that route. At binabastos tayo dahil nagpapabastos tayo. Kung sasabihin ng ating namumuno na wala akong magagawa diyan kasi kayo ang nag-occupy, ay talagang walang mangyayari at hindi tayo irerespeto sa community of nations."

(We should use the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US. And more than that, there are European countries like France and Britain, they are offering, they are saying they are interested because they are using that route. We are being disrespected because we allow them to disrespect us. If our leader say that we cannot do anything because they are occupying it, then nothing will happen and the community of nations will not respect us.)

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China on Thursday claimed that the Filipino boats blocked and bombarded with water by Chinese coast guard vessels on November 16 “trespassed” in Chinese waters in the West Philippine Sea.

China calls Ayungin Shoal, or the Second Thomas Shoal, as Ren'ai Jiao and the Spratly islands as Nansha Qundao.

Manila regards Second Thomas Shoal, which lies 105 nautical miles (195 km) southwest of the Philippine region of Palawan, as being within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. It has occupied the shoal since 1999 after intentionally grounding a navy ship on the reef.