Senator Alan Peter Companero Cayetano on Thursday said his intention was “clear” when he expressed disapproval of Senate Resolution 659, which was for the senators to put the measure on hold until they are able to align the information they have with the existing strategy of the President in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
In an interview with reporters after the Handa Pilipinas innovations exposition of the Department of Science and Technology on July 27, 2023, Cayetano maintained that he did not prevent the senators from approving the measure altogether, but rather urged them to conduct in-depth committee hearings first so as not to preempt the President.
“Ang sinabi ko kahapon, bakit natin ito ipapasa [samantalang] malinaw sa Supreme Court na ang nagde-decide ng strategy sa foreign affairs ay Presidente, at malinaw na hindi pa natin pinapakinggan [ang strategy niya],” he said.
Senate Resolution 659, which was supposed to be approved during the plenary session yesterday, seeks to urge the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to sponsor a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) calling out China for harassing Filipino military personnel in the WPS.
“Ni hindi natin alam kung gusto ng Malacañang na mag-file sa UNGA. Ni hindi natin alam kung gusto ng DFA,” the independent senator stressed in the interview.
‘A patient and effective strategy’
Cayetano, who served as Foreign Affairs Secretary from 2017 to 2018 under then-President Rodrigo Duterte, also reiterated that he is one with the senators and the Filipino people in fighting for the Philippines’ right in the disputed territory, but is concerned that elevating any complaint to the United Stations (UN) could backfire.
“Hindi po usapan dito kung gusto nating lumaban. Ang question dito, ano ang effective na laban,” he said.
“I’m not anti-anyone. I’m pro-Philippines. Ang Pilipinas ay dapat sa Pilipinas,” he added.
Citing how the Duterte administration managed to stand its ground for the Filipino fisherfolks’ right to fish in the disputed sea, the senator recommended a bilateral approach to the WPS strategy where the Philippines conducts one-on-one talks with China.
“We have to find a way to be patient and to find a way that will be effective,” he said.
“Kung tatanungin niyo ‘ko at kaharap natin ngayon ang ating Chinese counterparts, unang-unang sasabihin ko, ‘Pwede ba mga pare sa lahat ng mga problema natin ilabas natin ang coast guard? Pwede bang y’ung mga coast guard natin huwag magharangan? Nagawa na natin y’on,” he continued.
On the other hand, he said, if President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would turn out to have chosen to take a multilateral approach, Cayetano said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) might be a better platform for the Philippines than the UNGA.
“Kung ang Malaysia at Vietnam ay nasa UNGA din at tayo hindi, then may mukhang may mali tayong ginagawa. Pero kung sila paganda nang paganda ang relationship with China, nagkakaroon sila ng stability sa West Philippine Sea with China, gumaganda economy nila with China, kailangan mag-isip din tayo anong nagiging problema,” Cayetano said.
The independent senator said aggression is not an effective countermove against a “superpower” like China, which in the past had banned the Philippines from exporting its fruits to China and went cold on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
“Madaling sabihing sigawan natin ang China sa lahat ng forums, madaling sabihing pahiyain natin. [Kaso] hindi nga napapahiya eh, lalo lang nagiging agresibo at lalong maraming Pilipino ang naaapektuhan,” he said.
“Mas kawawa po ang fishermen kung sigawan tayo nang sigawan with China. Kung gusto nating ayusin ang problema sa fishermen, diplomacy [ang paraan],” he added.