MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Tolentino floated an idea to the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) about how it could help assert Philippine rights over parts of the West Philippine Sea already occupied by the Chinese.
The government radio station in Palawan, he said, should broadcast Filipino songs as far as the 9-dash line to remind the Chinese they are within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.
"Dapat 'pag gabi, puro Filipino songs 'yung tumugtog sa radio stations natin sa Palawan, abot doon sa mga istasyon na na-occupy ng alam 'nyo na kung sino sa West Philippine Sea – 'yung sa malalayong lugar kanila raw, sa 9-dash line," he said on Thursday, September 26, during the Senate hearing on the PCOO's proposed budget for 2020.
(At night, only Filipino songs should be playing on our radio stations in Palawan, and they should reach those places occupied by you-know-who in the West Philippine Sea – those faraway places that they claim as theirs, the 9-dash line.)
Blasting out Philippine songs would be a way to remind the Chinese of Philippine rights to the West Philippine Sea.
"Para 'pag gabi, parang Voice of America, puro Filipino songs ang naririnig ng mga nagbabatantay sa kabilang...katunggali natin. Puro Filipino songs, para malaman nila na they are in Philippine territory," said Tolentino.
(So that, at night, it's like the Voice of America – whoever is guarding will hear only Filipino songs, so they know they are in Philippine territory.)
China currently occupies artificial islands like Subi Reef (Zamora Reef), Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef), and Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef) in the West Philippine Sea.
Tolentino told PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar of his disappointment that the government's Palawan radio station is only transmitting at half capacity. He wanted this doubled.
"We need to have a stronger relay station coming from Palawan or Zambales," he said.
Senator Richard Gordon, meanwhile, twitted the PCOO when he was told of PCOO's deal with Chinese government media to share content and programs.
The PCOO, during the hearing, said Radyo ng Bayan, the govenment radio station, has a "joint program" with China Radio International.
"Pambihira naman kayo. Siguro kailangan talaga tanggalan ang budget dito," said Gordon. (You guys are really something. That's why maybe we really need to take away the budget for this.)
But he said this partnership could also be used to the Philippines' advantage, specifically in combating narratives that the country is subservient to China.
"If you have a Chinese program, then you cite our history, that we are not a Chinese province, but we are lovers of freedom and we support democracy etcetera, then that would be propaganda," said the senator.
The Duterte administration has been roundly criticized for not asserting the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China's claim to the West Philippine Sea.
Many countries, including the United States, Australia, and Japan, had supported the ruling, which was hailed as a huge victory of the Philippines against the Asian giant.
But the Duterte government, hoping to get economic deals from China, has decided it is "futile" to rally the international community behind the ruling to pressure Beijing.
Duterte prefers to dialogue directly with China rather than involve other states, an approach favored by China.
Despite these one-on-one talks, China continues to fortify artificial islands it has built in the West Philippine Sea, harass Filipino fishermen and soldiers, and swarm Philippine-occupied islands. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.