Govt urged to reach out to Asean vs China ‘bullying’ in WPS

SEN. Ana Theresia Hontiveros has urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to seek the cooperation of the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) amid continued Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The senator, in a statement on Tuesday, said Asean “should stand together against China’s bullying” and compel Beijing to reach a consensus on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (SCS).

Hontiveros said China has committed itself to a strategy based on its individual strength “but we, in the Philippines, with the help of the entire Asean, should resist”.

China has ignored the demand of the DFA and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to withdraw Chinese ships from the Julian Felipe Reef in the WPS. Beijing insisted that the area is part of their territory.

Ayaw makinig ng Tsina, ayaw din sumunod sa batas, kaya dapat magkaisa ang Asean kung paano harapin ang Tsina (China doesn’t want to listen, doesn’t also want to follow the [international] law. That’s why Asean must unite on how to face China),” Hontiveros said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson in a separate statement deplored that “diplomatic protests may not be too helpful anymore as China continues to ignore the same”.

“Further, while it is a standard document used to call the attention of the other party, China’s consistent attitude of taking for granted such action taken by the DFA reduces it to a mere point of information,” he said.

Lacson added, “That said, perhaps China would not be so dismissive if we and our allies, both in the Asia-Pacific and the west, show we can band together to maintain a balance of power in the region, including the West Philippine Sea.”

Hontiveros has urged the DFA to take immediate action and champion diplomatic initiatives within Asean amid escalating Chinese aggression in the WPS.

“We should put our differences aside and work towards the common goal of opposing unfounded and over-ambitious Chinese territorial claims in the region,” she stressed.

“If Asean does not adopt a common stand on the South China Sea, we cannot safeguard our shared interests,” Hontiveros continued.

Southeast Asia on its own should also still take a common stand through a dialogue within the member states for the first round of talks, she said.

“Then engage China in the framework of and towards an Asean-China Code of Conduct. We have repeatedly called on China to respect our seas, our sovereignty, and our people, but these have fallen on deaf ears,” she added.

Hontiveros said during the 37th Asean Summit in November 2020, Asean’s current chairman, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, publicly stated that the Southeast Asian bloc would maintain peace and stability in the SCS by respecting and observing international law, and by settling disputes through peaceful means.