Former Foreign Affairs Secretary and now Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday said that not bringing up China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was a sign of maturity and not weakness.
The lawmaker issued the statement as he opposed a Senate proposal urging the Department of Foreign Affairs to sponsor a resolution before the UNGA calling on China to stop its harassment of Filipino vessels in the WPS.
While he opposed the Senate resolution, Cayetano said the Senate should continue its discussion on the WPS.
“Maturity is needed not only in how we approach the problem but also in how we contextualize our approach and strategy,” he explained.
“As elected leaders of the nation, it is our duty to get things done the right way. For this, we need wisdom and circumspection. In formulating a national strategy, we have to look honestly into the past and make every effort to learn from history,” he added.
Last Wednesday, Senator Risa Hontiveros sponsored Senate Resolution 659 in the plenary, which Cayetano blocked, arguing that apart from China, other states claimed ownership over several parts of the WPS.
Cayetano also said that the UN might not be the proper forum as China preferred bilateral talks on territorial disputes and that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. did not mention this course of action as part of the government’s strategy.
He then appealed to the body to discuss the Senate resolution further and consult the relevant agencies before adopting such a measure.
Heeding his appeal, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said there would be an all-member caucus about the resolution to discuss the matter with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Presidential Adviser to the WPS retired General Andres Centino, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.
Cayetano also said in his statement that there were discussions in the past to bring the matter to the UNGA, but experts advised that this would not help the Philippines’ cause and might even weaken the country’s position.
“The UNGA is not a venue of enforcement. The Philippine government’s problem has never been who is ‘right,’ rather it is who has the ‘might’ to enforce ‘the right,'” he said.
The former DFA Secretary stressed that the Philippines should have an aggressive and sincere effort to have direct negotiations and confidence-building measures with China in resolving issues in the WPS.
“We cannot be ignorant of geopolitics. We must be conscious of and sensitive to the dynamics of rival superpowers yet be assertive that superpowers should not force upon us their way of doing things in the region. A rule-based approach that is fair to all is what we should insist on,” the senator added.
On Thursday, President Marcos said he did not see how Hontiveros’ resolution would translate into action before the UN.
“Generally speaking, the foreign policy is not set by the legislative. Generally speaking, foreign policy is up to the executive,” Marcos said.
“So, I mean, of course, the senator is free to file the resolution she wants. But I do not know how that will translate into any action that will reach the United Nations General Assembly,” he added. — DVM, GMA Integrated News