FIRING LINE By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

FIRING LINE By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
Sensitive talks  

Talks between President Duterte and Chinese leader Xi Jinping scheduled later this month in China may turn out to be their most sensitive dialogue. 

One reason here is Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s desire for the President to raise the issue of the rising number of Chinese ships inside our country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Drilon said two Chinese survey ships were spotted operating within our EEZ.

The senator was alarmed since nobody knew, not even the government, what these ships are truly doing in our territory. He said China should be made to explain. 

Drilon stated that if we were to remain silent and not take any action, China could assume that we agree with their ships’ presence. 

He commended Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for questioning the Chinese vessels’ presence, his actions to protect our territories and uphold our claim in the West Philippine Sea. 

Another reason that could bring tension to the meeting is Duterte’s intention to raise Manila’s landmark 2016 arbitral victory, which nullified China’s nine-dash maritime claim over the disputed territory. 

Last week, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said Beijing’s rejection of the arbitral victory would remain since its position on the issue is unshakable. 

Zhao, however, remained confident that issue would not affect the friendly ties between the two countries as he trusts that Duterte would not be confrontational when he brings the matter up with Xi. 

The Filipino people, nevertheless, hope that Duterte would not prioritize his friendly ties with China over his earlier promise to assert Manila’s rights to the disputed seas. 

In spite of the Philippines’ victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016, China militarized the disputed territory and continues to shoo our fishermen away from their traditional fishing grounds. 

The most recent encounter was when a Chinese fishing vessel rammed an anchored local fishing boat and left 22 of our fishermen struggling for life in the waters.

They would have drowned had it not been for a Vietnamese fishing boat that plucked them out. These are the reasons why, even today, many of our people detest China’s presence in some parts of the country, particularly in the West Philippine Sea. Can we blame them?  

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——————Editor’s Note: Robert B. Roque Jr. is a veteran journalist who started out as a correspondent for Manila Bulletin’s tabloid TEMPO in 1983. In 1989, at age 27, he rose to become the youngest associate editor of a newspaper of national circulation. In mid-2000, he took the helm of the paper as its editor until his voluntary retirement in 2012. He currently writes a syndicated column for TEMPO, Remate, and Hataw newspapers, the online news site Beyond Deadlines, and now for THEPHILBIZNEWS.COM. A former journalism lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the University of Santo Tomas from 1992 to 2002, Roque is also an active member of the Lions Clubs International, the largest service club organization in the world, having served as head of the Philippine Lions (council chairperson) in Lion Year 2011-2012. His column appearing here regularly will be written in Filipino on Tuesdays and in English on Thursdays. ##30##   
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