By Raymund Antonio
The bilateral talks between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea issue is not working and won’t bear any fruit, Vice President Leni Robredo said.
Robredo, who has been pushing for the diplomatic protest against Chinese military activities in the WPS, said the Duterte administration should assert the landmark ruling by a Hague tribunal in 2016 instead of choosing bilateral talks with China.
“Ilang beses na iyong mga eksperto nagsasabi sa atin na walang papapuntahan iyong bilateral talks with China dahil sa experience natin in the past (How many times did the experts tell us the bilateral talks with China have nowhere to go because of our experience in the past.),” Robredo said.
“Iyong nakaraang administrasyon, maraming sinubok na bilateral talks, pero hindi ito nagwagi, kaya nga nila fi-nile iyong kaso sa arbitral tribunal (The previous administration had tried several bilateral talks, but they did not succeed, so they filed the case at the arbitral tribunal.),” she noted.
The Vice President said that as long as Duterte, whose Cabinet she served briefly as housing czar, does not take “concrete steps” to protect the country’s rights over the WPS, she is not convinced that his administration is committed to defend the Philippines’ interest in the disputed area.
“Kahit anong assurance na ibigay sa atin na may ginagawa, kailangang makita natin. Hanggang wala tayong nakikitang ebidensyang ginagawa, hindi tayo nakukuntento (“No matter the assurance given to us, we have to see it. As long as we haven’t seen evidence, we won’t be contented.),” said Robredo.
“Kapag sinabing nagpo-protesta naman tayo, kailangang makumbinsi tayo na talagang nagpo-protesta tayo (When we say we are protesting, we have to be convinced that we are really in protest.) ,” she added.
The Vice President was asked to assess the government’s actions against China for its continued activities in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines won the 2016 ruling before an international arbitral tribunal on its maritime case against China, which invalidated its nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea.
Robredo called on the President to heed the call of public, citing last month’s Pulse Asia survey that showed 73 percent of Filipinos believed he should assert the country’s rights over the WPS.
“Ito, iyong inaasahan sana natin na pahalagahan iyong desisyon ng tribunal, at iyon iyong gawin na springboard para mas mahikayat natin iyong ibang bansa na makipag-ugnayan at makipagtulungan sa atin, para mas malakas iyong boses (This is what we expect the decision of the tribunal will hopefully be given importance and be used as a springboard to encourage other countries to coordinate with and help us in order that the voice will be louder.),” said Robredo.