We should be more assertive - and consistent - in making our stand on the West Philippine Sea.
On this note, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" M. Lacson pushed Tuesday for a more authoritative stand by the Philippines on its sovereignty and sovereign rights in the area - especially at this time of awakening by other nations on the issue.
"We should be more assertive. Di ba dati napaka-accommodating natin (Were we not too accommodating before)? We are already being bullied because we don’t do too much," he said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
"It’s only now na nagkaroon ng (that we see an) awakening not only on the part of our leaders but other countries as well," he added, referring to the statements of concern from other countries especially about the Nov. 16 incident where Chinese vessels blocked and water-cannoned two Philippine vessels bringing supplies to Ayungin Shoal.
Also, Lacson said President Rodrigo Duterte's "strong statement" on the issue should be followed up by consistent actions.
"No matter how late, it’s still good the President issued that strong statement to awaken not just China but other stronger allies. I hope it continues. And I hope the President remains consistent in asserting our sovereignty and sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zone," he said.
On the other hand, Lacson reiterated the need to maintain a balance of power in the region and seek stronger alliances with other nations.
He also said the time is right to revisit the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US, now that its joint vision statement with the Philippines has specific references to the West Philippine Sea and not just the Asia-Pacific region. He added the US' readiness to enhance facilities in the Philippines is sending a clear message to China, that the West Philippine Sea is not their domain.
Also, Lacson questioned the reported "request" by China to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana not to deploy escorts to Philippine vessels bringing supplies to Ayungin Shoal.
"If I were Sec. Lorenzana, I would do what I think would be in the best interest of our troops. I think it is within our rights to assert, tayo mag-decide kung kailangan may escort o wala (we should be the ones to decide if we will send escorts or not)," he said.
Lacson, who chairs the Senate Defense Committee, went to Pagasa Island in the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the WPS last Nov. 20. During his flight there, he encountered firsthand the challenge by Chinese authorities to the pilots of the aircraft he was riding. He also saw a text message upon arrival claiming "Welcome to China."
"No way. We should not accept that. It was totally unacceptable," he said of the challenge, adding he felt "more anger than fear" when hearing the challenge.