Senator Alan on WPS strategy: Go beyond sovereignty, work for economic rights also

Senator Alan Peter Compañero Cayetano on Monday said “aggressive negotiations” is a better strategy than “internationalizing” the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue, with closed-door diplomacy having been proven to be effective not only in protecting the country’s security but also its economic rights in the disputed territory.

In a media interview on July 31, 2023, Cayetano, who served as Foreign Affairs Secretary from 2017 to 2018 under then-President Rodrigo Duterte, explained how resorting to multilateral, international venues to challenge China only leads to negative economic repercussions.

“For example, ‘pag pumunta ka ng UN at nagbangayan kayo, hindi mo mae-expect na magkakaroon diyan ng agreements sa oil and gas na kailangan na kailangan natin. Kita mo big-time ang pagtaas (ng presyo) bukas kasi hindi tayo nagpo-produce ng enough oil and gas para sa sarili nating bansa,” he said.

Cayetano made the statement a week after Senator Risa Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution No. 659 which seeks to urge the Philippine Government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), to sponsor a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) calling on China to stop its harassment of Philippine vessels within the West Philippine Sea.

The independent senator said “microphone diplomacy,” which has been the Philippines’ strategy for a long time, has in fact resulted in the Filipinos’ loss of freedom in conducting fishing activities in the WPS in the past.

“Noong in-internationalize natin, microphone diplomacy kung saan may multilateral meeting, UN, et cetera ay pinapahiya at binibira natin ang China, ano ba ang naging epekto sa West Philippine Sea? Lalo silang naging aggressive, kinuha y’ung Scarborough Shoal, hindi tayo makapasok, mga mangingisda natin hindi makapangisda,” he said.

Cayetano said being seemingly quiet does not mean nothing is being done to protect the country’s interests. “Just because hindi maingay, hindi ibig sabihin walang ginagawa,” he said.

“Even during the time of President Duterte (and) Presidente Aquino, hindi naman lahat sinasabi sa media. Kahit ang US ganoon,” he added. 

Cayetano cited how the Duterte administration employed aggressive negotiations, which led to the Philippines’ economic rights being restored.

‘The proper venue’

Cayetano reiterated that since the law is already on the Philippines’ side, we have to “be wise” in insisting on it, rather than standing up against countries of “might.”

“Hindi natin problema ang right. The right is with us, tayo ang tama. Ang problema natin sa West Philippine Sea, ‘might is right,’” he stressed.

“Isa lang ang isyu: ano ang tamang venue at ano ang tamang paraan,” he added. 

He again pointed out that the UNGA is “a place to talk” and not for enforcement. Therefore, bringing any of the country’s issues against China before the UNGA does not necessarily mean it will be resolved.

“Venue kasi ng pulitika, ng negosasyon, venue rin medyo ng upakan ang UN. So what will happen is that magmumukha tayong lumalaban dahil nga maingay tayo doon pero on the ground, baka lalo pong mahirapan ang mga sundalo at Coast Guard natin,” he said. 

This he said is especially true because China is a member of the UN Security Council and has many allies in the UN. 

“‘Pag pumunta ka ng UN, might pa rin ang gagamitin ng China dahil malaking bansa ito. So kailangan po, wisdom ang ating gamitin,” he said. 

Cayetano said it is by strengthening the country’s economy that the Philippine Navy can be strengthened, which can then back us up as we conduct diplomacy in our “strategic rivalry” with all claimants, namely China, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

“Kaya nga sinasabi ko kay Senator Risa, hindi pwede tayo ritong galit o bara-bara lang. Bakit po? ‘Pag ang China umalis dyan, meron na pong submarines at militarized na rin po y’ung sa Vietnam at Malaysia, kukunin lang ng Vietnam at Malaysia ‘yan,” he said.


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