China giving permission to Filipino fishermen to return to Panatag Shoal is “an act of ownership,” according to former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
Former president and founder of PDP-Laban, the party list that selected President Rodrigo Duterte as their standard bearer for the May 2016 presidential elections, said that the issue should be raised to an international tribunal in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other applicable laws and policies.
“It is not enough that China now gives the impression that it is giving ‘permission’ to our fisherfolk to fish in the waters around the shoal… giving permission is an act of ownership, it should not stop our claim of ownership over the shoal,” Pimentel said in an interview with The Philippine Star on Tuesday.
Pimentel also said that he hopes the ties with traditional allies such as the United States will not be degraded on top of Duterte’s pursuance to enclose ties with China and Russia, commenting that “making friends is better than creating enemies.”
“We should take the world of the President that in his advocacy for an independent foreign policy we are not cutting ties with US and other countries like Japan with which the Philippines has existing treaties,” he said.
“More specifically, the President knows that in terms of national security we cannot defend our sovereignty by our lonesome, we need allies who have proven their worth as friends,” Pimentel added.
Senator Allan Peter Cayetano who ran for Vice President alongside Duterte during the elections, assured that the president will never compromise the sovereignty of the Philippines just to have better ties with China.
“There was no compromise on both sides, nobody is conceding anything, and the administration will never compromise our sovereignty,” the senator said through a phone interview.
“Let’s not get stuck with terminologies on who allowed what. Let’s be careful on what we say because it will affect our fishermen. He (Duterte) is just being practical in his approach in building good will,” he added.
On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said that he sees the development in the Panatag Shoal as the start of many concessions that President Duterte may be able to secure from China.