Although local fishermen have been allowed entry to the Scarborough Shoal, China still remains in full control as her ships and boats lord over the area.
When President Duterte came across Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit in Peru, the two leaders discussed briefly the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Xi assured our Chief Executive that Filipino fishermen would continue to have access to the shoal. The Chinese even offered to train and develop our fishermen so they could engage themselves in the culturing of fishes that would sustain their families and livelihood.
In turn, Duterte assured Xi of his intention to continue cooperating with China and strengthening ties in his desire to chart an independent foreign policy. In fact, he even invited him to visit the Philippines.
Firing Line supports the strengthening of ties between the Philippines and other countries. But maintaining friendly ties does not mean that we should forgo our rights to our own territory.
Bear in mind the UN-backed arbitral tribunal in the Hague ruled that the Scarborough Shoal belongs to our country.
The ruling clarified that there is no basis for China’s historical “nine-dash-line” claim on the waters that encompass the South China Sea, supposedly based on the markers found on an old map. Yet, we still find ourselves at the mercy of China.
Some Filipinos believe Duterte should be asserting our rights in his talks with Xi. If the Chinese truly respect us and treat us as equals, they should immediately vacate the West Philippine Sea and allow us to wield our rights over our own territory.
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Duterte also had a chance meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the APEC summit, and told him that the Philippines wants to be a part of Europe especially in commerce and trade.
Our President also complained that western nations continue to bully small countries like the Philippines.
Yet, not one word was mentioned about the abuses done by China on our fishermen at the Scarborough Shoal over the past years.
When we talk of bullying among nations, China would immediately come to mind along with the harassment she subjected our countrymen.
Is it any wonder that a survey showed that most Filipinos trust the US more than China?
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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/ (Robert B. Roque, Jr.)