Duterte urged to stand by WPS ruling

Activists hold a protest in front of the Chinese consular office, as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in the Philippines. ManilaTimes.net photo

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was urged by his critics on Tuesday, November 20 to defend the country’s claim and territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay said that the president must not put aside the country’s victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) as he cited the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey that revealed how more than 80 percent of Filipinos opposed the administration’s apparent inaction against China’s intrusion in the WPS.

“The next generation will not forgive us if they found out that there’s an administration that gave away the decision which we have won,” Hilbay said as reported by The Philippine Star.

Hilbay led the Philippine case against China over the disputed territories before the PCA in The Hague, the Netherlands in 2012. The PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016 and invalidated Beijing’s “historical maritime rights” over contested areas in the WPS.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also voiced out her similar concern as she called the tough-talking president to stop kowtowing to China and start asserting Philippine sovereignty.

“Now is the perfect time for President Duterte to demonstrate to the public what he is really made of,” Hontiveros said

She said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day official state visit to the Philippines will serve as an important test of Duterte’s political leadership. Given the dilemma of whether or not to assert the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“This will test the president’s courage. Will he continue to obey China or will he be brave enough to fight for our country and territory?” she asked.

“But all of this is empty bravado if he continues to kowtow before China and endanger our territorial integrity by doing nothing to defend the West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros added.

Magdalo Partylist Representative Gary Alejano welcomed the arrival of Chinese president Xi Jinping However, he warned Duterte to prioritize the protection of the country’s territorial claims and national interest in signing the agreements.

“We welcome the Chinese president on his arrival in the country as we want to pursue and maintain diplomatic relations with other countries,” Alejano said.

Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay reminded the administration to assert its rights over the international tribunal ruling in The Hague. She noted that since the decision recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the WPS so should China.

“The Duterte government has chosen a soft stand on China, opting for a defeatist and meek attitude towards China’s aggression and hogging of our territories. Duterte remains mute and has failed to assert the international tribunal ruling,” Palabay said.

“In effect, the government is gift-wrapping our sovereignty and territory in exchange for being the next debt colony of China,” she added.

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao said that the Duterte, first and foremost, has a responsibility to consider the betterment of Filipinos before anyone else.

“Duterte has the obligation to the Filipino people to reveal fully these agreements, especially on conditionalities and commitments that will bind the country and our people,” Casilao said.

Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez revealed that Duterte and the Chinese leader might sign an oil exploration deal.

“There should be transparency on these agreements especially since our national policies have been more in line with China’s interests rather than ours,” Dominguez said.

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