Karapatan to Duterte: Stop gift-wrapping our sovereignty and our territory

“The Duterte government has chosen a soft stand on China, opting for a defeatist and meek attitude towards China’s aggression and hogging of our territories. Duterte remains mute and has failed to assert the international tribunal ruling in The Hague, which recognized parts of the West Philippine Sea as part of the country’s exclusive economic zone. In effect, the government is gift-wrapping our sovereignty and territory in exchange for being the next debt colony of China,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, as people’s and human rights groups conduct a protest in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati on November 20, 2018 in time for the first state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China claims 90% of the South China Sea by using a confusing border called the 9-dash line. It aggressively sticks to its own rules while altogether ignoring other countries’ claims to the disputed seas. All countries involved in the dispute followed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which stipulates that a country’s territory extend to 200 nautical miles off their shore – all except China. This threshold was the basis of the favorable ruling which affirmed the inclusion of the West Philippine Sea as part of the country’s territory.

The disputed territory is rich in gas and oil reserves, with an estimate of 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, plus 10% of the world’s fisheries. It is also where 30% of the global shipping trade occurs, into the population and economic markets of Southeast Asia.

“No doubt China is aggressive, even to the extent of already building artificial islands and militarizing reefs in the area. Duterte is being party to this external threat, even declaring that Filipinos need only good faith in China, along with a stream of excuses of how the Philippines cannot do anything to match China’s power. While Duterte is being a good puppy, other similar small countries in Southeast Asia are not backing down on their claims. Our national bully, on the other hand, easily whimpers to the unfair demands of China and even other countries such as the United States,” Palabay said, adding that construction of lighthouses, communication facilities, airstrips, among others, is currently ongoing in Kagitingan Reef, Calderon Reef, Burgos Reef, Mabini Reef, Panganiban Reef, Zamora Reef and McKennan Reef.

Moreover, Karapatan noted China’s record of luring countries into debt traps, thus ending in their complete control of certain crucial areas in that country’s economy. “Half of the country’s Build, Build, Build program, or PhP 738 billion of PhP 1.5 trillion worth of projects, are Chinese capital. This is worrisome considering China’s military presence in our territories and its attempt at dominating our economy. Though US government still play a dominant role in the Philippines, its rivalry with China will make the country a stage of dispute and war. We will be but mere pawns amid wars of foreign powers, and Duterte is certainly driving us towards that direction by failing to put forward an independent foreign policy,” Palabay stated.
Karapatan also noted how the government is latching on to its “perverted concept of sovereignty to attack non-Filipino rights defenders who have come to express solidarity with Filipinos, while at the same time conveniently forgetting it once China expresses its demands.”

“Duterte’s kowtowing to China and his government’s stand with regard to our territorial sovereignty is nothing short of shameful. We reiterate the need for an independent foreign policy where we will not be subservient to foreign powers, where we can truly decide on our political and economic direction with the Filipino people’s welfare and rights at the center,” Palabay concluded.