The Philippines has been “too generous” to China over the West Philippine Sea issue, causing Chinese ships to flood the area, according to an expert.
This follows a recent response by the Chinese Embassy and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who explicitly evacuated Chinese ships spotted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
“Itong mga nakaraang taon kabaligtaran ‘yong nakikita nating lumalabas sa gobyerno, masyadong mapagbigay,” said Atty. Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea in an interview with Teleradyo.
“At one point sinabi pa ni Presidente [Duterte] na pinayagan daw sila mangisda doon, kaya nga ayan ang nangyari, dahil sinabi niya ‘yon, talagang pumasok sila in force,” said Batongbacal.
Batongbacal was referring to Duterte’s 2019 statements, which said the Philippines allowed the Chinese to fish in the West Philippine Sea.
Batongbacal allegedly agreed with the change of tone of government officials against China’s invasion of the West Philippine Sea.
“Despite all the friendship that we’ve shown them, patuloy pa rin silang pumapasok. Kaya tama lang na medyo magbago na ang tono natin na para kasing pinagsasamantalahan na tayo kung ganyan. Dapat lang tumigas-tigas naman,” he said.
PH has been ‘too generous’ to China over West Philippine Sea issue: expert
Aside from Lorenzana’s statements, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also plans to file a demarche, which according to Batongbacal is like a diplomatic note or protest but more detailed.
According to Batongbacal, the Philippines must also prove to the world its stand on the issue of the West Philippine Sea, in order to gain support from the international community.
“Kailangan natin ngayon i-rebuild ‘yong ating credibility sa international community na i-push itong compliance with UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and with international law,” he said.
“That’s the only way we can protect our interest sa ngayon dito sa West Philippine Sea, we go by international law,” he added.
It was 2016 when the Philippines won the arbitral ruling in the South China Sea against China, but critics of the Duterte administration think it seems to have been ignored in recent years because of the president’s desire for the Philippines to have better relations with China.