MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo told the Philippine government that it must continue to assert its sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea despite signing 29 agreements with China.
Robredo made the statement on Wednesday, November 21, the second day of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the Philippines.
The Vice President said it is the duty of the Philippine government to be transparent about these deals, telling the administration it must "inform the public what the nation stands to gain from such agreements."
But she said signing deals with Chinese should not be at the expense of the Philippines' ownership of the West Philippine Sea, a part of the South China Sea that China is claiming.
"Other than transparency on the bilateral agreements, we urge the administration to stand firm and exert all diplomatic means to assert our sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, consistent with our historic victory before the arbitral tribunal more than two years ago. Our sovereignty must not be compromised in any agreement we enter into with any country," said Robredo.
The Philippines in July 2016 won a historic case against China at a Hague tribunal, which upheld the Philippines' rights over the West Philippine Sea. Duterte, however, chose to set aside this ruling to gain loans and grants from Beijing.
Among the 29 agreements signed by the Philippines and China is a memorandum of understanding on oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea.
Robredo said that while she welcomes the Philippines' "friendship" with China, the interests of the Filipino people are paramount.
"This friendship should not come at the expense of the interests of our people and our nation. Our interests should always come first when we deepen relations with other nations, especially at a time when majority of our people continue to contend with daily challenges brought about by elevated prices and lack of livelihood opportunities," said the Vice President. – Rappler.com