Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate on Tuesday called for international cooperation especially by countries affected by China’s militarist actions.
“The setting up of missile systems and the establishment of Chinese military bases in the WPS is very alarming and we must act immediately before our remaining territories are lost. More coast guard vessels should be deployed in the area. We should also encourage our fishermen to actively report the presence of Chinese vessels,” Zarate said.
“It is also very important for now that we should push for the conduct of joint patrols with other affected countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei because this can become a bigger deterrent to China’s plans,” Zarate added.
Instead of justifying the Chinese’ aggressive action, Zarate said the government should also rally the international community in condemning and countering these latest Chinese actions.
“China’s plans and actions are further aggravating the tension in the region and they should stop it. In February 2016, they set up surface to air missile launchers in Woody Island, which is part of the Paracels claimed by Vietnam, now they installed missile systems in the areas claimed by the Philippines, if left unquestioned China may deploy missiles in Philippine territory” Zarate said.
“The international community should now step in so as to deescalate tensions and demilitarize the area, especially since the international arbitral tribunal at The Hague, decided in favor of the Philippines on the West Philippines Sea issue,” he said.
China has already reclaimed at least seven of our reefs such as the Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Mabini (Johnson South), Gavin (Gaven), Calderon (Cuarteron), Hughes (Kennan), Malvar (Eldad) and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs, that are clearly within Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone but hardly anything has been done to address it, Zarate said.
“We cannot also rely on the US to put in check the Chinese actions because clearly, the US is only interested in ensuring its unhindered passage in the West Philippine Sea. Once the US interest is ensured, it will not hinder China’s actions,” Zarate said, citing a presentation on the “US Maritime Security Policies and the Philippine Claims,” made by Fullbright scholar and UP Prof.dr. Jay L. Batongbacal.
“As long as the interest of the US is satisfied, it will just mouth motherhood statements on defending the Philippines but will not act to counter China. What we need now is to make a stand while relying mainly on our own strength and at the same time broaden our ranks here and abroad through a broad alliance to protect Philippine interests against China’s aggressive actions,” Zarate said.
Meanwhile, former Solicitor General and lawyer Florin Hilbay rejected a Palace statement that China’s reported missile system in the South China Sea is not directed at the Philippines.
In a television interview, Hilbay said the Philippines is actually the nearest country to the missile system that China has built, as reported by US network CNBC.
“It’s false to say the missiles are not directed at us because it’s a missile system. It’s technically directed at everyone within the range of that missile system and we’re nearest to that missile system. It is in fact directed at us,” he said.
The CNBC said the Chinese missiles were reportedly deployed on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef.
Last week, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has said that Malacañang is concerned over China’s reported deployment of missiles, but remains confident that the missiles are not directed at the Philippines because of the country’s close ties.
“[With] our recently developed close relationship and friendship with China, we are confident that those missiles are not directed at us,” Roque said in a statement.
But Hilbay said China had already broken its promise not to militarize its artificial islands in the South China Sea and will soon take control of the major waterway.
“There’s a history of dishonesty by China here. When China started reclaiming those areas and started building an island, they said this was for civilian purposes not military. This was for weather purposes for the protection of the fishermen. Now we realize that they have militarized the area,” he said.
Hilbay urged the government to file a formal protest against China’s militarization in the West Philippine Sea and invoke, over and over again, the arbitral ruling that the country won in 2016.
He also said the Philippines should ask the help of neighboring countries to enforce the decision.
“The international sheriff at the geopolitical level is the moral force of nations, their ability to tell China you are dependent on international law as well,” he said.
Duterte was already the president when the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s validated the Philippines’ maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, but has yet to invoke this ruling.
“We have to realize there are so many overlapping interests here and a lot of those interests coincide with the Philippines’. They have an interest in clarifying their rights of all the parties in the area,” Hilbay added.