MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned the landing of a Chinese military aircraft in Davao City, saying that the Philippines might eventually wake up a colony of the Asian giant.
Lacson said there are "strict internationally accepted standard protocols that must be followed before a state aircraft – more so a foreign military plane – is allowed to use our airspace."
He said the request should have gone through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), then the Department of National Defense (DND), which would either approve or reject such a request.
And if indeed this process was followed, government officials should have made it public, said Lacson.
"For one, a request through proper diplomatic channels is made beforehand, and the same is forwarded to the defense department who will either approve or reject such request. If these protocols were followed, there is no reason why our concerned government officials should not make public the same. Being silent or vague on this issue will only raise more questions," Lacson told reporters in a message on Monday, June 11.
"If such protocol was not observed, and worse, if our concerned officials were not even aware until such Chinese military aircraft had already landed, then, we acted like a province of China rather than an independent and sovereign state," the senator added. (READ: Duterte jokes: Why not make Philippines a province of China?)
Special Assistant to the President Bong Go earlier confirmed that a Chinese government plane was cleared for landing at the Davao International Airport. The aircraft was identified as People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) military transport plane IL-76.
Go said the landing was done so that the plane could refuel. Permission "was granted and given with specific conditions for compliance by the requesting party."
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also said there was clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
Lacson, however, warned that such requests have security implications.
"What if a hundred Chinese military aircraft suddenly request to refuel simultaneously in NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport), Mactan airport, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Clark? We might all wake up a colony again, this time by China," the senator said.
"That is why the defense department should have the final say whether to approve or reject such request. There are security implications," he added. (READ: Prepare for possible China invasion, ex-defense chief tells PH)
The Chinese aircraft's landing comes as the Philippines and China remain embroiled in a dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The most recently reported incident between the two countries involves the China Coast Guard taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal. (READ: To prove fruits of PH-China 'friendship,' Roque brings fishermen to press briefing)
Sotto backs Duterte on China
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III backed President Rodrigo Duterte's foreign policy geared towards China. (READ: Duterte insists war only alternative to dealing with China)
"The President is the architect of our foreign policy. We are no longer US-focused. We are now gearing towards friendly ties with all nations," Sotto said in a statement on Monday.
In pushing his point, Sotto said the Philippines became a target of the United States' enemies during World War II.
"Kakafriend natin sa US kaya naging target tayo ng Japan sa Second World War. Same day na binomba Pearl Harbor, binomba tayo ng Hapon sa Baguio at Clark. Almost one million died in that war. Sa bakuran natin sila nag-away," the Senate president said.
(Because of our friendship with the US, we became a target of Japan during the Second World War. The same day Pearl Harbor was bombed, the Japanese bombed Baguio and Clark. Almost one million died in that war. They fought in our own land.)
Sotto also said the Philippines should take the diplomatic route when it comes to issues involving China. He called on the public not to believe "doomsayers."
"No country wants to go to war, that is why we are exhausting all possible means to avoid it from happening. I appeal to the media and our countrymen not to swallow everything the doomsayers say," Sotto said. (READ: Talk to China or go to war? 'False option,' Carpio says) – Rappler.com