By Vanne Terrazola
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III defended President Duterte’s administration against a survey finding that majority of Filipinos dislike the government’s supposed inaction on China’s intrusion and militarization in the West Philippines Sea (WPS).
While admitting that the Duterte government “failed” to stop China’s military activities, Pimentel, a known ally of Duterte, maintained that the administration was not remiss in resolving the issue on the WPS.
He said that even the United States failed in preventing China from building military infrastructures in the Philippine territory.
“The government under President Duterte did something. True, we failed to stop the militarization but the U.S. ALSO FAILED TO STOP IT. We are talking about militarization. If the US failed to stop it, do we really think the PH can stop the military maneuvering of a country the US cannot even stop?” Pimentel stressed in his text message to reporters Tuesday.
Pimentel echoed Duterte who has since been warming up to China despite its continued claim on the WPS, saying that it would be better to be friends with the giant country.
“What did the Duterte admin do? We befriended China, our giant neighbor to the north, which fortunately also wants to befriend us. Why should we fight when we can be friends?” he noted.
The senator reiterated that being friendly with China, anyway, does not equate to yielding the country’s claim to the West Philippines Sea. He stood by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruling that upheld the Philippines’ jurisdiction over the territory.
“We are NOT GIVING up any of our claims and our gains like the arbitral ruling. Mag kaso tayo kung kailangan pero pwede pa rin naman maging mga mag kaibigan (File cases if necessary but we can still be friends with China),” he said.
Pimentel was commenting on the results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) September survey which said that 84 percent of Filipinos opposed the government’s inaction and think that it was “not right” to leave China alone with its activities in the country’s territory.
The poll also found that 87 percent believed that it is important that the Philippines regains control of the islands occupied by China in the West Philippine Sea.
China has refused to recognize the UNCLOS ruling as it insisted on its nine-dash-line claim over the South China Sea. It built artificial islands and had deployed missile systems over the reefs that were ruled to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
President Duterte, during the ASEAN Summit in Singapore last week, said China is already “in possession” of the disputed waters.
This despite repeated assurances from his spokespersons and counterparts in government that the Philippines will not give up the WPS to China.