“Allowing China to build military facilities in our own backyard is not a move of good faith but an affirmation of the Duterte regime’s foreign policy of national sellout and subjugation to international powers.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA –“What happened to the promise of the tough-talking then Davao City Mayor that he would ride a jet ski to a disputed island occupied by China and personally stake the Philippines’ claims?” asked Gabriela Women Representative Rep. Emmi De Jesus on Monday, February 5. De Jesus said Duterte’s goal is apparently not to fight for the PH islands but to sell it instead to Beijing.
Despite the Philippine victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration over the disputed islands in the South China Sea, the action, or rather, inaction, of the Duterte administration against the Chinese takeover of the disputed territories has led progressive lawmakers to conclude that the “Duterte’s policy is to surrender to China our national patrimony not just in the West Philippine Sea but in the Philippine Rise as well,” as Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party Representative Antonio Tinio said in another statement.
Photos of the almost completed construction of the Chinese military base in the West Philippine Sea have engendered protests but the administration of tough-talking President Duterte appeared far too lenient. ACT Rep. Tinio dismissed as mere “fig leaf” Malacañang’s attempt to cover up the “shameful reality that it has already given de facto recognition to Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea and that it has virtually ceded control of the West Philippine Sea to China.”
Build Build Build, for whom?
It is not the first time the Duterte administration was viewed as selling the country’s patrimony in exchange for loans in projects that critics said will enrich only his “oligarchs.”
Early last month, Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao linked the lukewarm stance of the Duterte government to the Chinese reclamation activities in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) to its desired loans for mega infrastructure projects under the administration’s so-called Build, Build, Build.
“In the name of its ambitious mega-infra projects, the Duterte gov’t is selling our islands like hot cakes to the Chinese gov’t to the tune of $167 billion and could balloon to $452 billion based on the pronouncements by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno last year,” Casilao said.
“Allowing China to construct military facilities in our own backyard is not a move of good faith but an affirmation of the Duterte regime’s foreign policy of national sellout and subjugation to international powers,” De Jesus of Gabriela said.
There have been reports of continuing Chinese military buildup in the West Philippine Sea, the most recent of which are in the Kagitingan Reef or the Fiery Cross Reef. Kagitingan Reef is part of the disputed Kalayaan Group of Islands in the Spratly Region of the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea. It is part of the Philippines’ 220-naughtical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). China’s construction there reportedly began in 2004.
“That China has nearly completed a military airbase is “an outright state neglect and surrender of sovereignty, for which Duterte himself should be held responsible,” said Kabataan Party Rep. Sarah Elago in another statement.
Such a sellout is deemed not only as dangerous but also as a significant loss for Filipinos. They lose a teeming fishing ground and the potential to mine an area rich in oil and gas.
Kabataan Rep. Elago said Duterte is selling not only islands but big chunks of our territory, such as Marawi, and even ancestral lands, to foreign investors. She said the sale of the country’s patrimony is part of the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build program design, as the public-private partnerships with foreign investors in reclamation projects and big cities are being sold to China, Japan, US, and other countries.
From the West Philippine Sea to other parts of the country, whether the Filipinos are already living off it or not – these are up for sale, “the reason the Duterte administration is rushing charter change — to enable 100 percent foreign ownership of lands and resources in the Philippines without legal hindrances,” Kabataan Rep. Elago said in a statement Monday.
What to do?
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the Filipino people should appeal for international support to stop the Chinese militarization of West Philippine Sea. He said the country could get such help as one of the standing members of the Asian Parliamentary Association (AIPO) and the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU).
Noting that the Philippine military – the institution which should have been defending the Philippine sovereignty against foreign intrusion – might “not be on our side,” Zarate looked to the Philippine Congress and neighboring countries. “We can possibly rally a strong and unified legal, moral and diplomatic front among our neighbors,” said the Davao-based solon. He urged both Houses of Congress to launch a diplomatic offensive to protest the instability being caused by Chinese aggressive acts in the region.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has been delaying taking action against the Chinese militarization in PH territory, citing the need to prove first that there is indeed militarization all over the Kagitingan Reef before protesting against Beijing. Fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA has slammed his “hesitation to file a diplomatic protest against China.”
“Lorenzana is not capable of being a defense chief because of his dilly-dallying attitude toward defending the territory,” Pamalakaya said in an earlier statement.
Casilao of Anakpawis agreed with the fisher folk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya – Pilipinas (Pamalakaya). He said the Duterte gov’t should instead push enforce the international tribunal decision, which, he said, nullifies China’s preposterous 9-dash line claim. “These set of islands in the West Philippine Sea are clearly under our territory, we should assert our rights to use it freely, in our own terms, without external intervention.”