Lacson Presidency to Prioritize Tough Stance vs China’s Bullying in WPS

Lacson Presidency to Prioritize Tough Stance vs China’s Bullying in WPS

By Ernie Reyes

Esquire PH photo courtesy

MANILA — A tough stance against bullying in the West Philippine Sea,
anchored on maintaining the balance of power in the area, will be
prioritized under a Lacson presidency, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson
said Monday.

Lacson said that while the Philippines should maintain trade relations
with countries like China, it cannot sacrifice its sovereignty and
sovereign rights for this.

“Tinuturing nating kaibigan ang China pero ang turing ba nila sa atin
kaibigan? Dapat equal footing, hindi one way (We treat China as a
friend, but does China treat us that way? Friendship should be on
equal footing, not one-way),” he said in an interview on Radyo 5.

“Meron tayong sovereign rights sa EEZ natin kaya dapat i-assure natin
na lahat ng nations that freedom of navigation will be observed and
upheld. Ang China wala sa kanila ang freedom of navigation (We have
sovereign rights on our exclusive economic zone, we can assure all
nations that we will observe and uphold that freedom of navigation,
something China does not do),” he added.

When asked if he will treat the West Philippine Sea situation as a
priority issue if he wins the 2022 presidential race, Lacson said he
has always done so.

“Maski di pa ako kandidato, ito ang gusto ko mangyari, ma-enhance ang
ating alliance hindi lang sa US kundi sa ibang (Even when I was not
yet a candidate, I had always pushed for enhancing our alliances with
our allies including the US, to maintain the balance of power),” he
said.

“Records will bear this out: Maski di pa ako kandidato, ito ang gusto
ko mangyari, ma-enhance ang ating alliance hindi lang sa US kundi sa
ibang (Records will bear this out: Even when I was not yet a
candidate, I had always pushed for enhancing our alliances with our
allies including the US, to maintain the balance of power),” he said.

He said the balance of power would discourage countries like China
from making incursions and from bullying smaller nations’ ships in the
area.

Lacson cited information reaching him that China once “challenged” a
US warship passing in the area. When the US vessel’s captain invoked
the right of innocent passage, the Chinese vessel did not even block
or attack the vessel with water cannons like it did two Philippine
vessels headed for Ayungin Shoal last Nov. 16.

“Doon natin nakikita na pag may balance of power sa WPS, hindi talaga
magkakagiyera at mapapangalagaan natin ang ating sovereign rights and
territorial integrity (From this episode, we see that if there is
balance of power in the WPS, there would be no war and we can maintain
our sovereign rights and territorial integrity),” Lacson said.

Meanwhile, Lacson said the timing is now right to revisit the PH-US
Mutual Defense Treaty, after the US expressed willingness to enhance
efforts toward an international law-based maritime order, including
freedom of navigation.

Lacson also reiterated he is not favoring the US or any other country,
stressing that the Philippines’ foreign policy is always anchored on
national interest.

“Malinaw sa West Philippine Sea, ang national interest natin
ma-exercise ang sovereign rights within the EEZ at sovereignty natin
within 12 nautical miles (It is clear that in the West Philippine Sea,
our national interest dictates that we exercise our sovereign rights
within the EEZ and sovereignty within 12 nautical miles),” he said.

Lacson, who is running for President under Partido Reporma, has long
pushed for a balance of power in the West Philippine Sea, with the
Philippines strengthening its ties with its allies that are militarily
strong and have an interest in maintaining the balance of power as
they value the freedom of navigation in the area. (ai/mtvn)

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