Defenders of sovereignty in the West PH Sea forum urges deliberation on Duterte’s ‘subservient relationship with China’


By Macon Araneta l Filam Star Correspondent

DEFENDERS of the West Philippine Sea from the Supreme Court, Senate, legal and academic communities on July 9 closed ranks to call for transparency and integrity in the foreign policy of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

In a foreign policy forum organized by the Office of Akbayan Sen. Risa Hontiveros in Manila, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, former Solicitor Gen. Florin Hilbay, former Rep. Barry Gutierrez, University of the Philippines law professor Jay Batongbacal and military historian and security analyst Jose Custodio took turns in discussing the government’s foreign policy thrust and framework.

The event entitled “Kasarinlan: A Philippine Foreign Policy Forum,” coincided with the second-year anniversary of the country’s historic victory before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague on the West Philippine Sea.

Hontiveros said that her office organized the event as there is a strong urgency to create deliberative spaces to discuss an alternative foreign policy framework to better secure the country’s national interests.

“In light of the numerous threats to and violations of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Duterte government’s apparent subservient relationship with China, its policy of silence and secrecy regarding its foreign policy, as well as the harassment of our small fisherfolk, there is a strong need to provide the Filipino public venues to discuss the government’s foreign policy thrust and framework, and deliberate whether or not the current administration’s foreign policy framework is still in compliance with our international obligations, particularly the arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros explained.

“Amid the serious foreign policy issues the country is facing, we demand transparency, courage and integrity in the government’s foreign policy work,” she added.

The Senator said that it is a fallacy to believe in the false choice that there are only two alternatives in dealing with China, silence or war.

“Yes, war is not, and should not be an option, for all of its terrifyingly obvious reasons. But in that space between violence and silence, is precisely this – prudent and courageous diplomacy. And an opportunity exists to work with other countries to find a way for us to effectively enforce the verdict won at The Hague,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros said that the event is the first in a series of forums that her office is organizing to foster the public’s better understanding of the country’s crucial foreign policy issues and propose possible solutions.

The event was attended by members of the diplomatic community such as British Ambassador Daniel Pruce, Swedish Ambassador Harald Fries, Minister Takehiro Kano of the Embassy of Japan, First Secretary Tettyana Jasli of the Embassy of the Republic of Singapore, Political Officer Neil Phillips of the Embassy of the United States of America (USA), Policy Adviser Noelle Velasquez of the Embassy of New Zealand, Christine Carole, Counsellor for Political Affairs and Camille Conde of the Embassy of France, First Secretary Jérôme Rivière, Political Attaché Maria Lampoudi and Stephanie Carette of the European Union (EU) delegation to the Philippines, First Secretary James Cooper of the Embassy of Australia, Bertil Moesgaard Andersen, Political and Administrative Assistant of the Embassy of Denmark, former Philippine Ambassador to China Erlinda Fadera-Basilio, and Katrina Clemente-Lua and Samantha Ching from the Albert Del Rosario Institute.

The forum was also attended by leaders from the fishing industry sector, student leaders and representatives from different people’s movements and non-government organizations.