By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go assured the public that the country’s national interest and welfare of all Filipinos are the utmost priorities of President Rodrigo Duterte when it comes to the West Philippine Sea issue.
During ambush interviews after attending the launching of the 104th Malasakit Center at the Leyte Provincial Hospital and the 105th at the Schistosomiasis Control and Research Hospital both in Palo, Leyte last Friday, April 30, Go said that President Duterte, being the chief architect of the country’s independent foreign policy needs to continue working with international partners in addressing the ongoing pandemic while also securing the country’s interest in the West Philippine Sea.
“Ang President naman po ang chief architect ng foreign policy. Knowing the President for the longest time, always the interest of each and every Filipino ang parating nasa isipan ng mahal na Pangulo. Binabalanse n’ya lahat,” Go said.
“Ibig sabihin ni Pangulong Duterte, isulong ang dapat isulong, ipaglaban ang dapat ipaglaban, isantabi muna ang dapat isantabi…nasa gitna pa tayo ng pandemya at kailangan natin magtulungan sa isa’t isa,” he added.
Go also mentioned that he is confident in the President’s judgment on the matter. “I’m sure, the President po, alam n’ya ang ginagawa n’ya at ipaglalaban n’ya po kung ano ang atin, kung ano ang napalunan natin, atin ‘yun,” he said.
Duterte, during his Talk to the People address on Wednesday night, said that the country would not go to war against China as the latter is a “good friend” but asserted that Filipino presence will remain in the West Philippine Sea despite the demand of China.
Go also asserted that it is in the interest of all parties concerned to uphold the peaceful settlement of disputes, consistent with international law and relevant treaty obligations, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Responding to their criticisms on the government’s handling of the West Philippine Sea dispute, Go challenged retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario to patrol the sea themselves and face the Chinese coast guard.
“Kung talagang sila ang matapang, dapat noon pa hindi na nila pinabayaan… Ngayon, nagmamatapang sila, puro sila bunganga. Ano ang magagawa ng bunganga mo, punta ka doon,” he challenged.
Go said that their bickering will not undo the criminal neglect committed by the previous administration which resulted in China’s militarization of the West Philippine Sea.
“Panahon pa po ng previous administration, hinayaan po nila… Hinayaan nilang makapag-(military) build up po ang bansang China. So, ngayon ‘di mo na masira dahil hinayaan po nila,” he said.
In an earlier statement last week, Go agreed with and supported the President’s position of ordering vessels not to leave the West Philippine Sea. “Our vessels have every right to be in the West Philippine Sea, especially those areas under our Exclusive Economic Zone,” he said.
“Bilang isang mambabatas, hangad ko na sana lahat ng anumang hindi pagkakaintindihan sa West Philippine Sea ay naidadaan sa maayos at diplomatikong usapan. Mahalaga ang papel ng diplomasya rito at importanteng bukas po tayo sa maayos at tapat na pag-uusap sa ibang bansa,” he added.
Go emphasized that both sides should continue to demonstrate their commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes, consistent with international obligations and duties as responsible members of the international community. He added that moves to address concerns on the WPS and the government’s efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic are distinguishable issues.
“At habang ang buong mundo ay nagnanais na malampasan ang kasalukuyang pandemya, mas mainam na ang mga bansa ay patuloy na nagtutulungan upang puksain ang COVID-19… Katulad ng mga Pilipino, kailangan ng mga bansa ngayon ang magbayanihan upang madaling malampasan ang krisis bilang isang nagkakaisang sangkatauhan,” he said. (AI/MTVN)