By Raymund Antonio
Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni“ Robredo on Tuesday asserted the government maintaining close relations with China and the United States were “beneficial” to the Philippines.
“There seems to be a perception that to be friendlier with China or Asian neighbors would mean [a] decrease [in] our friendship or our relations with the United States. I don’t believe in that,” she told Bloomberg TV.
Robredo, who is the leader of the opposition, said she had no problems with the country’s ties with China, but expressed concern it may be at the expense of Philippine sovereignty.
“I understand why the new administration has chosen to be more friendly with China. What I don’t understand is why there is no clear lines between giving up our sovereignty,” she said.
“There should be a very clear line as far as protecting our territory is concerned and preserving sovereignty,” the lady official stressed.
Robredo said the Duterte administration had chosen to set aside the arbitral tribunal ruling, referring to the Philippines’ historic win against China at The Hague.
In 2016, the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration favored the country’s territorial claims, thus invalidating China claim to the West Philippine Sea.
Asked whether or not the current administration was “selling out” the Philippines to China, she replied in the affirmative.
“Yes, because of the way the administration now is responding to threats to our territory and sovereignty. For many years now, China has been occupying many of the territories where we have stake our claim,” she said.
“Even after we got the arbitral tribunal award already, the government has not responded in the way we were expecting it,” Robredo noted.
But having said that, Robredo recognized President Duterte’s plan to finally invoke the arbitral ruling in his next trip to China.
“It is a big development in the sense that people have been prodding him to do that,” the Vice President said.
The Chief Executive is set to fly to China later this month to bring up the matter with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping.
His other agenda include the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank last June, and the proposed joint oil and gas exploration with China.