The deep “political divide” in the Philippines is affecting the country’s position in the ongoing maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Sunday.
Lacson, chair of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, lamented that the noise created by the warring factions of so-called “DDS” and “Yellows” is preventing the country from having a united stand in the territorial dispute as their conflicting statements are confusing the public.
Echoed by their respective troll farms, he added that their dominating discourse is also discouraging those who are thinking “independently” from engaging in discussions.
“From what I observed, the issue on the WPS is embroiled in a political divide. There is a deep division in our country where it seems like only two groups are conversing. Worse, they are always bickering – the DDS and Yellows,” the senator said in a television interview.
“Another bad thing about it is they consider Filipinos as their proxy. If you call out one group, they always think that you belong to the other. For example, if you call out the DDS they will say you are a yellow. If you called out the yellows, they’ll say you are a DDS,” he said.
“Our kababayans are getting confused so it is better if we will have one voice. Besides, we are fighting for one country, right?” he added.
According to Lacson, there are tens of millions of Filipinos who have opinions that are different from the two political factions, and it is high time for the larger segment of the population to start speaking up.
“They should continue speaking their minds independently, especially in pursuit of our country’s national interest,” he said.
The senator then stressed the importance of informing the public on what the present and future generations of Filipinos will stand to lose if China’s intrusions will continue.
“We must make it clear to our fellow Filipinos what we stand to lose if we do allow the West Philippine Sea situation to continue. That should be the focus of the conversation, not petty bickering that will confuse our people,” he said.
Separate vaccine donations from territorial dispute
In the same interview, Lacson said that the coronavirus vaccine donations of China must not be linked with the ongoing tension in the WPS.
Refuting the recent statement of President Rodrigo Duterte that the Philippines has a “debt of gratitude” to China, the lawmaker said the donated jabs should not be used to weaken the position of the Philippines in the maritime dispute as these are two different issues.
“Are the donated vaccines part of the WPS issue? No, it is different. China is not the only country that handed jabs to us so why would they mix it with the territorial dispute? Let us focus on the WPS issue and have a united position about it,” he said.
“If we are going to talk about WPS, then let us talk about WPS,” he added.
He then reiterated his call for the Philippines to strengthen its alliances with other countries including Australia and Japan after noticing that China is seemingly no longer heeding to the diplomatic protests fired by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“I may sound like a broken record on the matter of seeking stronger alliances with the more militarily powerful countries like the US, Australia, even Japan and some European Union countries to maintain the balance of power in the West Philippine Sea, since given the situation, it is unthinkable for the Philippines to match China’s military presence within our Exclusive Economic Zone,” Lacson said.
“These countries have openly expressed their willingness to assist, but we cannot expect them to be more aggressive than us in this regard. It is our territorial integrity and sovereignty being assaulted, so we, not them who must take the initiative,” he added.
The recent maritime intrusion is the third major incursion of China in the Philippine territory, the senator said.
The European Union recently called out China for “endangering” the peace and stability in the region by the recent presence of its fleets in the WPS.
On 28 April, President Duterte said the Filipinos “owe [China] a debt of gratitude” after it donated one million doses of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines.