Divided stance on WPS may be part of China's strategy - senator

By Wilnard Bacelonia

April 16, 2024, 3:58 pm

<p><em>(Screengrab from PTV)</em></p>

(Screengrab from PTV)

MANILA – Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva on Tuesday called for unity amid different sentiments arising from the revelation of an alleged "gentleman's agreement" between former president Rodrigo Duterte and China.

During the regular Kapihan sa Senado, Villanueva said it is not time for Filipinos to be divided on fighting for the country's sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as this might be what China wants to happen.

"Dapat lahat tayo, we are united on this. Kung mag-aaway-away tayo sa harap ng kung sinuman, huwag na po nating gawin. Puwede naman tayong mag-usap na tayo-tayo na lang bilang mga Pilipino. Because for all you know, China is on top of all this at ito'y parte ng kanilang stratehiya (All of us should be united on this. We should not argue in front of anyone. We can talk together, on our own, as Filipinos. Because for all you know, China is on top of this and this is a part of their strategy)," he said.

The senator said he does not also believe that Beijing is not aware that an agreement without any document is not valid, and might just be "playing dumb" in bringing up the issue.

"No one believes it is binding. I mean, all of us knew that it was null and void to begin with. Can you imagine China, the Chinese government, hindi ba nila alam to? Are they that naive na hindi nila alam na pumapasok sila sa isang so-called agreement na hindi naman mapapatupad, na hindi naman maho-honor (Do they not know about this? Are they that naive to not know that they are entering a so-called agreement that can never be implemented, that will never be honored)?” Villanueva pointed out.

"Why are they doing this? And after so long, ilalabas nila ito. Bakit? Because clearly, they want us na mag-away-away. They want us na ma-divide tayo. They want us na mag-iba-iba ang posisyon (they will bring this up. Why? Because clearly, they want us to fight each other. They want us to be divided. They want us to have different positions), and that should not be the case.”

Villanueva appealed to all concerned government officials and leaders to "put our acts together" in facing the issues with China.

He also sees nothing wrong with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. seeking help from other countries in asserting sovereign rights over WPS.

However, Villanueva suggested that a master plan on how to handle the issue and identifying the end goal should be in place. (PNA)