Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday called on Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to stand up for the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea and renewed her call for a clear, consistent, and firm national policy for meeting the challenge of Chinese aggression in the disputed waters.
“I have always respected Secretary Lorenzana as an officer and a gentleman, but his flip-flopping and indecisiveness will only lead China to think that we are a weak nation,” she said.
“We also cannot stand up to China alone. But how are we going to work together with our allies when we don’t even want to be seen with them when China is looking? This is the sort of policy that is very unlikely to inspire confidence in the Philippines as a partner nation. Hindi tayo pagkakatiwalaan,” she added.
Hontiveros issued the statement after Lorenzana downplayed the risks posed by China’s Coast Guard Law, which authorizes the use of force against foreign vessels within disputed areas claimed by Beijing, by encouraging FIlipino fishermen to continue fishing in their traditional fishing grounds.
However, in another statement, he said that the Philippines will not be joining naval drills in the South China Sea with other countries in the region for fear of antagonizing China. Lorenzana said that “China is watching,” and that “a lot of things could be done to us by the Chinese government if they are antagonized.”
“With all due respect, Secretary Lorenzana, now is the time for firmness,” Hontiveros said.
“China’s aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea, and not our joining joint exercises with our allies and other friendly nations, is the real threat to peace and stability in the region. It is also a clear and present danger to vital national interests in the contested areas,” she said.
“Why are we so considerate about antagonizing China when China seems intent on antagonizing us every day?” Hontiveros said.