May 22, 2024

During the visit of European Union (EU) President Ursula von der Leyen to the Philippines on July 31, two agreements were signed by her and President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Jr.
The first agreement is the giving of financial assistance of 60 million euros to support various sectors in the development of renewable energy and to assist the country in mitigating the effects of climate change.
The second agreement is to work with the Philippine government in strengthening maritime security in the Far East Region and extend support to the enforcement of the 2016 arbitral decision favoring the territorial claim of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea over China’s.
While both agreements are of monumental importance, the second is of paramount significance since it is the one that may deter China against transgressing the integrity of our sovereignty and in continuously threatening the invasion of our country.
The EU is one with our people in asserting that China poses a threat not only to the Philippines but to the entire world as well. She recognizes that the continuous bullying of China in the West Philippine Sea is a possible flashpoint for another war.
Therefore, the only possible solution to this problem is to put pressure on China to ease on its coercive tactics and respect the 2016 arbitral decision.
Still, we recognize the fact that China is not about to give up on what it had already claimed to be hers. And so, on top of the agreement that President Marcos signed with von der Leyen, other peaceful and diplomatic solutions are being explored.
A Senate resolution is being drafted condemning the illegal intrusion in our territory and continuous harassment of our fishermen by the Chinese Coast Guard and its militia. The Senate resolution is, of course, a long shot.
In conjunction therewith, Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano is suggesting that the government tap former President Rodrigo R. Duterte to be our representative in bilateral talks with China via backchannel negotiations. He reasons out that Duterte is well-liked by China’s leadership and his closeness with them may convince them to give up their claims over the West Philippine Sea.
What Cayetano is proposing may prove disastrous. For one, Duterte no longer has any political clout.
Also, his view of the Philippines’ claim over the disputed areas does not align with the policy of the current administration. Whereas Duterte is passive because he believes that we are not equipped not go to war against China, the current administration is more assertive in that it is entering into agreements with other nations and exploring all avenues to enforce the arbitral decision.
In any case, the Philippines must assert its claim over the West Philippine Sea. There is already a decision to this effect. The only thing holding the country back is the lack of proper enforcement. The agreement with the EU President might be a good start.