REP. Gary Alejano on Thursday expressed dismay over Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s statement that there was nothing to fear from the presence of Chinese Navy, Coast Guard and fishing vessels near Pag-asa Island.
“It is disheartening to hear our own DFA secretary brushing aside the unusual and suspicious presence of several huge military and civilian Chinese ships along with Chinese choppers surveying in the vicinity of our largest island for several days and stating that it does not mean anything,” Alejano said.
“Have we already adopted the strategy of silence, inaction and subservience in the West Philippine Sea so as not to offend China?”
Alejano made his statement even as Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Philippines was “open” to forging partnerships in extracting oil in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Any move for joint exploration with other countries would be welcome, Abella said.
“The President is open to possible cooperation with foreign entities in exploring and extracting mineral and gas resources in the West Philippine Sea,” Abella said.
“We are not limiting ourselves to exclusive economic relationships.”
Cayetano earlier said the issue on the presence of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea “does not mean anything,” even as he said Filipinos must learn to develop trust in China in the same manner that it trusted the United States, a longtime ally.
But Alejano said the issue was not even comparable to the US ships conducting freedom-of-navigation surveillance in the South China Sea, which Cayetano said Filipinos should also be worried about.
“The US is our long-time ally and is not involved in island grabbing in the South China Sea. Unlike China which has a history of grabbing islands and harassing our fishermen. That is entirely two different things,” Alejano said.
He urged the Duterte administration to be transparent in its dealings with China and on the issues in the West Philippine Sea.
“We have not heard, so far, of any diplomatic protest lodged by the DFA against China’s intrusions and aggressive actions especially on our fishermen,” Alejano said.
“The Filipino people are kept in the dark as to the real score of Duterte’s foreign policy. We must demand transparency from our government officials.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Prospero Pichay sought to establish a mutual defense treaty with China following the marching order of President Duterte to establish “mutual trust” instead of pursuing the traditional confrontational approach to ensure a successful joint exploration in the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.
Pichay said he broached the idea during a briefing on Wednesday by Cayetano before the House special committee on the West Philippine Sea led by former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City on the developments in the disputed areas.
“I made that suggestion to Secretary Cayetano and he responded in the affirmative,” Pichay said.
Pichay said the United States had failed to defend the Philippines from the continuing Chinese aggression.
“The US failed to defend and rescue us because they don’t consider the building of military facilities by China in the West Philippine Sea as a form of aggression,” Pichay said.
“They are just for the safe navigational pass. If this is the situation, we should abrogate the MTD with the US and establish a similar one with China.” With John Paolo Bencito