Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday cautioned the government that China may be using its “vaccine diplomacy” to advance its national interest, especially with regard to contested waters in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Risa to admin: Don’t let China stab us in the back

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Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday cautioned the government that China may be using its “vaccine diplomacy” to advance its national interest, especially with regard to contested waters in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“We must not allow China to shake our hand on vaccine procurement, but stab us in the back on the West Philippine Sea,” she said.

Hontiveros issued the statement as China passed its Coast Guard Law on January 22 allowing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and demolish other countries’ structures that are on Chinese-claimed reefs.

“Hindi nakakatuwa na sa gitna ng pandemya ay nagpasa sila ng ganitong batas. Habang nilalako ng China ang mga bakuna nila bilang ‘global public good’ umano, ibinabasura naman nila ang natitirang kapayapaan sa WPS,” she said.

“Paano natin ngayon masisigurado na ang mga bakunang bibilhin at ibibigay ng Tsina ay walang halong kapalit?” she said.

The senator added that the Department of Defense should be prepared for this latest development, as China shores up influence in the region.

“The DND already needs to have a strategy for when worse comes to worst. Ibig sabihin ba ng bagong batas ng Tsina, the next time na gusto nilang ilubog ang fishing vessel natin, o iwan ang mangingisda natin sa dagat, hindi lang nila sasagasaan, babarilin nalang? China should ease tensions in the WPS, not escalate them,” she said.

Hontiveros then called on government to ensure that the Philippines follows an independent foreign policy.

“Dapat walang special relationship sa kahit anong bansa, lalo na sa Tsina sa ngayon — maging sa usapin ng West Philippine Sea man o sa bakuna,” she said.

“Ilang beses nang binanggit ni Sec. Harry Roque na ‘BFFs’ daw ang Pilipinas at China, na kahit ang presyo ng bakuna para sa COVID-19 ay bababa dahil daw sa ‘special relationship’ na ito. Hindi na nga tayo pinpayagang mangisda sa sarili nating dagat, special relationship pa rin? Ganyan ba magturingan ang sinasabi nilang BFFs?” she said.

“Kailangan pa rin natin isulong ang sariling interes ng ating bansa. Unahin ang Pilipinas. Our country shouldn’t be beholden to any foreign power, whether in the West or in the East,” Hontiveros said.

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