AS THE Philippines claimed victory against China over the West Philippine Sea due to a favorable decision at the arbitral court on sea disputes in The Hague, The Netherlands, research group IBON Foundation urged President Rodrigo Duterte to assert national sovereignty versus China and the United States.
IBON in their 2016 Midyear Birdtalk held at UP Diliman last Saturday said that the real conflict is between the two superpowers China and US.
“Bully ang China, pero bully rin ang US. Mas naiintindihan nga lang natin ang (pag-bully ng) US,” IBON Executive Director Jose Enrique Africa said.
US Role in the dispute
The group noted that the “warmongering” started when the former Aquino administration, with the US government, militarized parts of the South China Sea, particularly those claimed by the Philippines as within its territory.
“Pwedeng tanungin sa simula kung adik ba talaga ang China sa giyera o na-provoke lang siya na kumuha rin ng militarized approach,” Africa said.
He also said that Former President Benigno Aquino III may have strengthened the Philippines’ territorial claims over China but he also displayed his government’s “puppetry” with the US.
Africa suggested that the new administration should use the country’s diplomatic resources and economic and friendly relations with other countries to call for international support.
“To uphold Philippine sovereignty is not to be dependent on China or US, but standing up for the Philippines,” he said.
IBON is optimistic that President Duterte’s assertive nationalism and patriotism will bring positive results.
Duterte recently slammed the US in a speech, saying it “imported terrorism” into its own territory and not to the Middle East.
“May nakikita siyang mga kalaban at tumitindig siya laban sa mga iyon,” Africa said.
Africa urged the new administration to assert sovereignty by “throwing the US out of the country and dealing with China and US on more equal terms.”
Africa noted that “hugging” the US is not the only “Aquino legacy” that Duterte should reject but he should also junk the past administration’s anti-people policies.
False Aquino Legacy
IBON Executive Director Rosario Bella Guzman emphasized that poverty and inequality worsened under the Aquino administration despite its hype on economic progress.
The group blamed Aquino’s elitist policies and economics that prioritized the business sector rather than provide policies for the benefit of the Filipinos.
The administration should look into the 15-point People’s Agenda, crafted by various sectoral alliances and progressive groups, for answers on the masses’ struggle and immediate needs, the research group suggested.
The People’s Agenda has been personally submitted to Duterte at Malacañan Palace last June 30 hours after he took oath of office.
“Compared with previous administrations, things are kind of okay now with Duterte,” Africa said.
He cited Duterte’s pronouncements on free health care, education, land distribution, and the resumption of peace talks, among others.
However, he said that people still need to be vigilant and that six years can make the country worse or make it better.
“Yes, things can always get better, but it will not fall out of the sky. It’s in our power to make it better,” Africa said. # (Report and photo by Mikaeilah Dimpas of UP College of Mass Communications for Kodao Productions)