Philippine Politician Wants a Stronger National Stance Against China in the South China Sea

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Activists display placards as they chant slogans during a rally on Monday, June 11 to protest what they claimed was harassment of Filipino fishermen at the Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. Picture: Reuters

‘Economic sanctions, like boycotting Chinese products’

In an interview with CNN Philippines (July 18), Aquilino Nene Pimentel, a former Senate President and ally of President Rodrigo Duterte wants a stronger national stance against China, which has ignored an international tribunal ruling that largely favored the Philippines in disputes in the South China Sea.

Aquilino Nene Pimentel advised the government to turn to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and United Nations (UN). The ruling invalidated China's sweeping claims in the South China Sea, where Beijing has built artifical islands and militarized disputed features. The tribunal recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights in areas within the country's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, branding certain activities there by China as illegal. China claims almost the entire resource-rich sea, through which $5 trillion in trade passes annually, despite competing partial claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. China in May reportedly deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles on the Spratly Islands and flew nuclear-capable bombers to a base in another disputed part of the sea. He also suggested that countries consider economic sanctions, like boycotting Chinese products.

According to experts, recently, Duterte has exercised warm relations with China, as the eastern giant has promised billions in investments to the country. While the administration has maintained this comes with no strings attached, critics fear that the country could fall into a debt trap or effectively give up its claim on disputed islands. Recently, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is avoiding criticism over Chinese expansion in the South China Sea, and has instead described Beijing as a good neighbor. Duterte made the remarks Tuesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for a Chinese-funded bridge. ‘I just like to tell everybody that in all of these discussions, China never asked for any, not even a one square of real estate in this country’, he said, adding discussions will ensue at the right moment.

Most Filipinos have little trust' in China, disapprove of Manila's South China Sea policy

A survey in the Philippines by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) organization has found that the majority of Filipinos are deeply unsatisfied with the government’s South China Sea policy and the Duterte administration’s perceived appeasement of China. The survey carried out in late June, and published on July 14 by SWS discovered that four out five Philippine adults (81 percent) are unhappy with their government’s lack of action in South China Sea disputes with China. The majority of adult Filipinos think it is wrong to continue allowing China to build structures and militarize artificial islands in Philippine territory./.