By Dane Angelo M. Enerio
ACTING CHIEF Justice Antonio T. Carpio is among the prominent voices calling for a more assertive Philippine government stance amid the reported sightings of Chinese long range bombers in the Paracel Islands.
“The Philippine government must formally protest the increasing militarization of the South China Sea (SCS) by China,” Mr. Carpio said on Tuesday in a press statement.
The Chinese Air Force announced on Friday, May 18, that it successfully landed a Xian H-6K long-range bomber on one of its military bases in Woody Island of the Paracels as part of its training exercises, a move condemned by countries such as the United States, Vietnam, and Australia.
According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, China’s latest move puts the Philippines within striking distance of the nuclear-capable bombers, along with several other countries in the region.
Mr. Carpio said the Duterte administration’s “failure to formally protest means the Philippines is acquiescing or consenting to the militarization, and worse, to the claim of China that all the islands, waters, and resources within the nine-dashed line form part of Chinese territory.”
“A formal protest is necessary to preserve our sovereignty over Fiery Cross Reef… A formal protest is also necesssary to preserve our sovereignty over Subi Reef… Moreover, a formal protest is also necessary to preserve our exclusive sovereign rights over Mischief Reef which the arbitral tribunal ruled forms part of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines,” read Mr. Carpio’s statement.
Former Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario, in an opinion piece published on the Philippine Star Tuesday, also called on the government to be more assertive of the country’s rights against China.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo, a member of the opposition party, shared the sentiments of Messrs. Caprio and Del Rosario, describing the presence of the bombers as “alarming.”
In a press statement Tuesday, Ms. Robredo called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to “file a diplomatic protest in front of these events” as these “will express our strong opposition to the actions of the Chinese nation.”
“The Filipino community expects its government to defend our security boldly. If the government itself does not stand for the integrity of our territory, where will our country be?” her statement read in Filipino.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte, reacting to the calls, said, “I cannot afford at this time to go to war.”
Addressing a crowd of naval officers at the celebration of the Philippine Navy’s 120th anniversary on Tuesday, Mr. Duterte said, “I cannot go into a battle which I cannot win and would only resolve in the destruction and probably a lot of losses for our armed forces.”
“I really want to do something to assert,” he said, but explained that, “whether you accept it or not, it’s the reality… I cannot rely on one nation and country to defend us.”
Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, meanwhile, announced that equipment that will be used to monitor missile deployments in the SCS and West Philippine Sea (WPS) will be delivered by August this year. — with reports from Arjay L. Balinbin and Charmaine A. Tadalan
By Dane Angelo M. Enerio