Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial candidate Win Gatchalian has urged the government to consider hammering out a deal with other claimants in the maritime dispute with China, saying a resolution of overlapping claims among them will leave China “out of the equation.”
The Valenzuela City lawmaker said this as China again prevented Filipino fishermen from accessing traditional fishing grounds by sending seven ships to Quirino Atoll, also known as Jackson Atoll, in the previous weeks. Meanwhile, the US Navy has launched a small armada to the disputed waters as show of force.
“The Philippines should take the lead in building stronger alliances with other countries such as Australia, Japan, and the US. This is an international problem considering half of the world trade passes through the West Philippine Sea,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Gatchalian has earlier suggested that the Philippines settle its overlapping claims with other claimant-countries, specifically Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam. “The Philippines and other claimants can craft a multilateral deal that would divide the pie among themselves, leaving the bullying country out of the equation,” he said.
“Because China, being an economic and military power, always insists on resolving territorial conflicts bilaterally, it will now be left out of the picture as Southeast Asian nations peacefully resolve their overlapping claims,” said Gatchalian.
In 2014, the Philippines and Indonesia has finally resolved their maritime dispute after two decades of negotiations, with former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono saying the deal between the two countries is a “good example” of resolving such issues without violence.
“One country alone cannot stop China’s bullying, but together with the other claimants and supported by other nations like the US, Japan, and Australia, China’s aggressiveness can be restrained,” Gatchalian noted.
Vietnam has previously sent a statement to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, saying the Vietnamese government recognized the court’s jurisdiction over the case forwarded by the Philippines and asking the court to give “due regard” to its legal rights in its territories that are also being claimed by China. Vietnam also described China’s nine-dash line as being “without basis”. The Philippines expects a ruling to be released by the court by May.
China has reportedly deployed HQ-9 anti-air warfare missiles on Woody Island in the Paracels near Vietnam while the Chinese single-seat fighter jet Shenyang J-11 was also seen in the area. A high-tech air search radar capable of detecting US stealth aircraft may also be installed, according to reports.
Gatchalian has been pushing for the revival of the Reserved Offices Training Corps (ROTC) as a means of inculcating in the youth patriotism and nationalism in the wake of renewed activities of the Chinese military in the West Philippine Sea.
Gatchalian said making ROTC mandatory for all male students enrolled in colleges, universities and technical or vocational schools is in line with the Constitutional provision which states that “the Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in fulfilment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal, military or civil service.”
“The ROTC program will bolster confidence in our military preparedness and capability while at the same time provide our country with support from student-cadet reservists and potential commissioned officers,” Gatchalian said.
Under House Bill No. 2338, Gatchalian wants the ROTC to form part of the curriculum of all college degree courses as well as technical or vocational courses, and shall be a pre-requisite for graduation. Students shall be required to complete the ROTC for an academic period for two years. (Monica Cantilero)