Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima chided Mr. Duterte for his continued refusal to assert the country’s territorial integrity and sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, said Duterte’s recent claim that the Philippines cannot win any fight with China, particularly the dispute in the WPS, without even acting on the issue first, only highlights his cowardice.
“As I’ve said before, nobody really expects Duterte to stand against China’s continued incursion in the WPS, but we cannot ignore his continued cowardice and kowtowing to China,” she said.
“We cannot allow Duterte to brainwash Filipinos into believing that we should not assert our country’s right in the WPS because we are supposedly no match against China – not when we are aware of the country’s arbitral victory against China and definitely not when we are only months short into electing the country’s new leaders,” she added.
In a recent command conference, Duterte reportedly reiterated that he will not go to war against China if there would be tension in the WPS, stressing that the Philippines will stand no chance against the Asian superpower.
“I would never allow that for as long as I sit President. Hindi na tayo magsali diyan sa… How can we match the firepower of China?” he said.
De Lima said Filipinos should never emulate Duterte’s continued disregard for the country’s arbitration victory against China over the WPS.
“Nakakadismaya ang ganitong klase ng pinuno na hindi kayang tumindig para sa ating soberanya at pambansang dangal. Nililinlang pa ang taumbayan sa kanyang pagkaduwag. Standing up for our territorial rights is not tantamount to proclaiming war,” she said.
Recently, De Lima said that the WPS issue should be in the top 5 of presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates’ platforms for the 2022 polls as it proves their priority to protect national interests over their own.
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. (30)