“Ang dali-daling tumayo diyan at murahin ang mga Chinese para maging popular ka, pero ang kawawa ay y’ung mga mangingisda na hindi makakapangisda.”
This was Senator Alan Peter Cayetano’s response to a reporter’s question that equated his disapproval of calling out China to being pro-China.
“Nagmumukha lang tayong matapang sa [ganoon] but we’re actually shooting ourselves on the foot,” he told media in an interview on Monday, July 31.
The independent senator, who served as Foreign Affairs Secretary from 2017 to 2018 under then-President Rodrigo Duterte, said he would rather “be bashed” for ”doing what is right” than risk the safety and economic rights of Filipino fishermen and military personnel in the West Philippine Sea.
“Kung wala akong experience na positive at kung hindi sure y‘ung sinasabi ko, hindi na lang ako magsasalita o kaya makikisali na lang ako sa murahan na lang. Pero hindi nga [ganoon] eh,” he said.
“Kawawa ang mga Coast Guard na siyang baka maaksidente sa tubig, kawawa ang mga Navy na baka hindi makuha ang supplies nila,” he added.
Cayetano cited how a “calm and circumspect” approach to China through bilateral talks had helped keep Filipino fishermen’s right to fish in the WPS during the Duterte administration.
“During our time, nagawan namin ng paraan pati y’ung paghahatid sa Ayungin Shoal ng mga supplies ng mga nandoon nang walang problema,” he said.
“During the arbitration award, bawal mangisda ang Filipino sa Scarborough. N’ung pumasok si Duterte at nag-usap [ang Pilipinas at China], pwede nang mangisda,” he added.
This developed as senators conducted a closed-door meeting on Monday night with members of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the National Security Council, and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
The meeting was called to discuss proposed Senate Resolution 659 following Cayetano’s recommendation last week to consult first with the Executive and gather the “right information” before jumping into the adoption of the resolution.
The resolution, which was sponsored by Senator Risa Hontiveros, seeks to urge the government through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) calling out China for harassing Philippine vessels in the WPS.
“Parang ang dating kasi sa tao, ‘pag pumunta tayo sa UN, mas matapang tayo, maso-solve natin ‘to. Pero kung magbotohan at sabihin mong 30 [na bansa] ang mag-abstain, eh ‘di parang humina pa y’ung [Arbitral Ruling] natin,” he said.
Cayetano urged his fellow lawmakers not to “give our people false hopes.”
“We cannot keep telling our people na tatayuan natin ‘to, matapang tayo, punta tayo doon. And then pagdating doon, [China] gets more aggressive, kawawa ang fishermen natin, kawawa y‘ung ating Coast Guard,” he said.
He again stressed that the UNGA has no enforcement mechanism and so “none of [the countries] can tell China to back-off.”
“So sa akin, mas kalmado tayo, mas circumspect, matapang nating sabihin y‘ung mali,” he said.