Neri Colmenares says there’s something different about his second try for a Senate seat.
Do what the Duterte administration has been unable to do - take China on.
This was the call made by opposition senatorial candidates to Filipinos as they urged people to descend on the Chinese Consulate in Makati on April 9.
“Sabay-sabay tayong pumunta sa Chinese consulate sa umaga at ipakita natin sa Tsina na tutol tayo sa kanyang pangangamkam sa West Philippine Sea at pangha-harass at panggigipit sa ating mangingisda, (Let’s troop to the Chinese consulate in the morning and let us show China that we are against their appropriation of the West Philippine Sea and the harassment of our fisherfolk.),” said independent senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares at a press conference of the Pilipinong Nagkakaisa para sa Soberanya.
The protest to be held on Araw ng Kagitingan comes amid growing furor over Chinese vessels encroaching on Philippine territory. Protestors will assemble in front of the Makati Fire Station at 9 am then march to the consulate a few hundred meters away.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has confirmed that over 600 Chinese ship – fishing vessels and Coast Guard - have been spotted around Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island) since the start of the year.
Pag-asa, around 480 kilometers west of Palawan, is part of the Spratly Islands also being claimed wholly or partly by China, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has already issued a statement on the illegal presence of Chinese ships there and a separate diplomatic protest supposedly filed.
‘Kowtowing’ makes things worse
Colmenares described the government’s attitude towards China as one of “appeasement”.
“Mali ang kowtowing foreign policy ni President Duterte (President Duterte’s kowtowing foreign policy is wrong),” he said.
“The more na na-entrench ang China diyan, ina-appease mo siya at hinahayaan mo siyang mag-expand, nagiging intractable siya sa area kasi lumalakas siya doon.(The more that China becomes entrenched there, when you appease it and let it expand, it will become intractable in the area because it is getting stronger.)”
Colmenares said Duterte’s attitude toward China is opposite to that of fellow claimants Vietnam and Taiwan as well as Indonesia, all of which have been more assertive in dealing with Chinese incursions.
Colmenares said the Philippines could form an alliance with these countries to fend China off.
Labor leader Leody De Guzman agreed that the government shouldn’t allow China’s disregard of Philippine sovereignty.
“Garapal yung mga imposisyon na ginagawa niya sa ating bansa, kasabwat si Duterte(China’s impositions to our country are shameless and Duterte is a part of it.),” quipped De Guzman, who is also running as senator under the opposition ticket.
Gov’t deal review ‘PR exercise’
Meantime, other opposition lawmakers downplayed Duterte’s order to review government contracts entered with China following questions about Constitutionality and legality.
It’s a PR exercise, said ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio who was at the event. “Kung seryoso talaga si Pangulong Duterte sa utos na ‘yan, eh di papakulong niya sarili niya dahil siya ang pangunahing arkitekto ng patakaran sa pag-utang sa Tsina. (If Duterte were serious then he would have to put himself in jail by now.)”
Among these supposedly questionable deals is the $211.2 million Chinese loan for the Kaliwa Dam in Quezon, which is meant to improve the water supply for the capital. The deal supposedly contains a provision allowing China to take the Philippines’ patrimonial assets if it is unable to repay the loan.
Colmenares meanwhile said Duterte cannot wash his hands of these loans.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez is not empowered to sign a loan without the President’s authority, Colmenares said. “President Duterte is as responsible as any other government official diyan sa mga loans na ‘yan [for those loans],” he insisted.
For former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, the review should be more specific and prioritize the deals with China.
“There are hundreds of thousands of government contracts, so it really doesn’t mean anything ‘pag sinabi mo na tignan lahat ng kontrata ng gobyerno [when you say look at all government contracts],” he said.