Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima criticized Mr. Duterte for claiming that the territorial issue in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) does not affect what he believed to be a “friendship” between Philippines and Beijing.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, lamented how Duterte persistently refuses to assert Philippine’s sovereign rights in WPS to please China.
“When we talk about China, we cannot simply disregard and turn a blind eye on the issues on West Philippine Sea, as if the former does not take away the livelihood of Filipino fishermen or refuse to respect our territorial integrity,” she said.
“May kaibigan bang ginigipit at ipinagtatabuyan ka sa sarili mo pang bakuran? May kaibigan ka bang imbes na igalang at kilalanin ang inyong karapatan ay sila pa mismo ang nambubully at yumuyurak sa ating pambansang dangal? This so-called ‘friendship’ only exists in Duterte’s head as it only benefits his personal agenda,” she added.
In a briefing with Cabinet members last Dec. 13, Duterte reiterated that his government will maintain a good relationship with China amid issues on the WPS.
“Yung issue diyan sa West Philippine Sea, ibang issue ‘yan at ibang issue na itong pagkakaibigan natin sa kanila,” Duterte said.
Duterte’s “friendship” claim came just a roughly a month after three Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and fired water cannon on two Philippine boats heading to Ayungin Shoal to transport supplies to military personnel.
“Kahit saang anggulo mo tingnan, hindi masasabi na kaibigan ang turing sa atin ng China,” said De Lima, who was part of the Philippine delegation who argued the Philippines’ arbitration case against China over the WPS before The Hague during her stint as Justice Secretary.
In a separate statement published on Twitter, De Lima asked: “Kung yung kapitbahay mo nagtatayo ng extension ng bahay nila sa lupa mo, nanakot sa anak at asawa mo, at pumapasok pa sa loob ng bahay mo para mang-agaw ng pagkain at kasangkapan, kaibigan pa rin ang tawag mo doon?”
“Yan ba ang ‘Ama ng Bayan’? LOL Tuta ka ng mga yan, hindi kaibigan,” she added.
It must be noted that in a landmark ruling on July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) found no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to a “nine-dash line” in WPS but China refused to honor the ruling.
This year, De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 694 urging the government’s Executive branch to exert all legal and diplomatic actions on the Chinese government in asserting Philippine sovereign rights in the WPS.
De Lima is also among the 11 Senators who filed SR No. 708 urging the upper chamber to “condemn in the strongest possible terms” the illegal activities of China in the disputed waters.