The reported “return” of Chinese maritime militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea should be an urgent wake-up call for Filipinos to unite and come up with one strong stand on the issue, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson stressed Thursday.
Lacson also said it is time to explore further possibilities, including using parliamentary-to-parliamentary channels, to ensure a balance of power in the region.
“We are not really surprised. In a way, we even anticipated the return of the Chinese vessels because the vessels that were in the area earlier were most likely just surveying. Their job was to scout the land and not yet occupy. Ngayon nagbalikan na (Now they’re back),” he said in an interview on DZBB radio.
Lacson, who heads the Senate’s national defense committee, cited news reports indicating at least 287 Chinese maritime militia vessels were spotted over parts of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), including various maritime features covered by Kalayaan town in Palawan.
Kalayaan municipality has jurisdiction over Sabina Shoal, where one of the more recent presence of Chinese vessels was noted. Sabina Shoal is just some 130 nautical miles from Puerto Princesa in Palawan.
Before this, Lacson cited news reports last January that China had already landed its biggest warplane on Kagitingan Reef in December 2020.
He warned that if Filipinos and their top leaders continue to bicker on the issue, we may wake up one day to find garrisons in Sabina.
“Before we know it one day gigising tayo, may garrison na ang China. Nariyan na sila sa paligid natin, sa karagatan (We may wake up one day to see Chinese garrisons in our EEZ. They are already there, in our territory),” he said.
He also reiterated the constant bickering among Filipinos will benefit the Chinese government. “Sa kanila, busy kayo mag-away-away gagawin namin ang gagawin namin (To them, so long as we are busy fighting among ourselves, they will do what they are doing),” he said.
Meanwhile, Lacson cited the possibility of exploring “parliamentary to parliamentary” channels in resolving the issue.
He said other countries are willing to help the Philippines maintain a balance of power in the WPS area because they have their own national interests to pursue.
“Sila, more than willing to pursue their own national interest. International trade ang involved diyan (They are more than willing to pursue their respective national interests. International trade is involved here),” he said. SENATE.GOV.PH