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Aquino draws flak on foreign relations

Lawmakers blast  ‘weak response’ to Malaysia, two Chinas Lawmakers on Sunday slammed President Benigno Aquino III for his weak response to Chinese intrusions into Philippine territory, saying these would continue unabated while he hid behind the United States. “The President’s weak response to the Chinese incursions only encourages such incursions into Philippine territory,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares. Former senator Richard Gordon tied Mr. Aquino’s response to the Chinese intrusions to other foreign policy failures, including the country’s recent dealings with Taiwan and Malaysia. “The government must be firm, resolute and must not appear to be weak,” Gordon said. “Our government must not continue to exhibit the same kind of weakness as shown in our reaction during the Hong Kong hostage crisis in Manila, the Spratlys and Scarborough shoal issue and the killings of our people in Sabah.” ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said China’s naval presence in Ayungin Shoal was an outright violation of undisputed Philippine territory. “This is the most serious violation of our territory by China to date,” Tinio said. Colmenares urged the President to press China to ligitate its claim through arbitration, or press the United Nations to orderChina to accede to mandatory conciliation under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS. “But as long as the Philippines continue to hide behind the US, which has not even ratified UNCLOS, China will never respect us,” Colmenares said. Gordon said the government’s lame reaction to issues such as the furor that arose from the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman, and its failure to respond to the killing of Filipinos in Sabah gave the impression that the Philippines is a pushover. Gordon said the government should review the rules of engagement in such matters and ensure that the Armed Forces is ready to take a stronger position when such issues arise. “Obviously, other governments think the Philippines is a pushover because of our government’s lame reaction to similar issues, which is demeaning to our nation. I cannot keep quiet as we see a continuous string of humiliating events,” Gordon said. Gordon also stressed the need to modernize the Armed Forces and the Coast guard to improve their capability to protect the country’s territory. A spokesman for the Navy, Col. Edgard Arevalo, admitted Sunday they could only watch and document intrusions by the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea. “They come and go and we are not sure if they are out there permanently. But we are vigilant and our troops continue to monitor their movements,” Arevalo said. Based on this monitoring, three new Chinese ships were seen entering Ayungin Friday and Saturday. Ayungin is one of the three reefs and seven islets of the municipality of Kalayaan Island Group in Palawan that is located in the West Philippine Sea . KIG forms part the Spratly Islands claimed by China as its own. Other claimant-countries include Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. On Sunday, the Foreign Affairs Department cautioned Taiwan not to interfere in the Ayungin incident, saying that doing so would violate the UNCLOS. The Palace has snubbed a protest filed by Taiwan over the deployment of Navy ships around Ayungin. In a separate development, a team of investigators from the National Bureau of Investigation prepared to leave for Taiwan to gather evidence on the fatal shooting of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the team of NBI agents and forensic experts would fly to Taiwan Monday morning, debunking that the mission has been put on hold due to supposed new demands from Taiwanese government. “There are no new demands from Taiwan,” De Lima said, in a text message. The Taiwanese government reportedly wanted to get a video of the incident submitted by the Philippine Coast Guard to the NBI. De Lima has agreed to allow the visiting Taiwanese probers, who are conducting a parallel investigation under a cooperative arrangement, to see the video. The eight-member NBI team is specifically tasked to examine the fishing vessel where fisherman Hung was shot dead by Coast Guard personnel, and interview his companions. They will also seek a new autopsy. – With Joyce Pangco Panares, Rey E. Requejo, Florante S. Solmerin and Macon Ramos-Araneta
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