Senators weigh in on Marcos stand on non-use o water cannon to defend WPS

(GMA NEWS) At least three senators gave different views on President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s rejection of the idea to use water cannons to retaliate against aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who is among the senators who suggested the use of water cannon against those who violate Philippines’ rights over the WPS, questioned the President’s stand by citing the administration’s recent actions.

“So why are other ‘powers’ being brought in to involve themselves in WPS issues if the ‘intention’ is to lower tensions?” Pimentel said in a Viber message to reporters.

“Why increase the number of EDCA sites? Why buy missiles and submarines instead of surface vessels which can obviously be used in disaster relief operations?” he added.

Pimentel was referring to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) locations which the Philippines and United States have agreed to establish.

Signed in 2014, EDCA grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, allows them to build facilities and preposition equipment, aircraft, and vessels.

In February, the Philippines and the US agreed to designate four new EDCA sites in strategic areas of the country with the aim of accelerating the full implementation of the agreement.

Meanwhile, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, chairman of Senate national defense committee, supported Marcos’ rejection of the idea to use water cannons in the WPS, noting the need to use “rules-based approach” in defending the country’s territory.

“I express my solidarity with the President regarding his firm decision to abstain from employing water cannons or any other offensive weapons as a countermeasure against China’s persistent aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea. Instead, it is our responsibility to remain steadfast in safeguarding our maritime and sovereign rights through a rule-based approach,” Estrada said.

“Ang paggamit ng dahas ay hindi kailanman dapat maging solusyon dahil minsan na nating napatunayan na naaayon sa batas ang pag-angkin at pagmamay-ari natin ng ilang bahagi ng WPS,” he added.

(The use of violence is never a solution because we have already proven that our sovereignty over WPS is in line with the law.)

In adhering to the principles of the rule of law, Estrada said the government can use diplomatic channels and peaceful means of conflict resolution.

“Instead of resorting to retaliatory measures, we will assert our rights through diplomatic means. We have consistently filed diplomatic protests to address China’s aggression within our territorial waters,” he said.

“The position taken by the President demonstrates his dedication to upholding stability, diplomacy, and the long-term interests of our country. Let us stand together in supporting our government’s principled approach. By following international norms and pursuing peaceful means, we can protect our maritime rights while avoiding unnecessary conflict,” he added.

Senator Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Senate special committee on Philippine maritime and admiralty zones, called Marcos’ decision as a “pragmatic and responsible decision.”

“It was a pragmatic and responsible decision made by the President to consider the prevailing  situation calculated to maintain the current moral high ground of the Philippines. Whether [the] said… decision is ephemeral, only the President could decide,” Tolentino said.

Last week, Tolentino said the use of water cannons to retaliate against aggressive actions in the WPS would need the President’s go-signal, noting the possible consequences of doing such.

While he said that the Philippine vessels could do that too, the senator warned that retaliating against China using water cannons might escalate the tension in the WPS even more.

Earlier in the day, Marcos said he does not want to aggravate the already tense situation in the WPS  following the China Coast Guard’s harassments on Philippine vessels, the latest of which took place last week and involved the use of water cannons.

“No. We are…  what we are doing is defending our sovereign rights and our sovereignty in the WPS, and we have no intention of attacking anyone with water cannons or any other such offensive,” Marcos said.

“The last thing we would like is to raise the tensions in the WPS. That’s the last,” the President added, noting that Philippine forces will ”not follow the Chinese Coast Guard and the Chinese vessels.”

Authorities said last week’s water cannon attack by China in Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, had caused damage to Philippine vessels bringing food and fuel to fishermen in the area.

The Philippine Navy earlier said around 1,000 civilian boats should be deployed in the resource-rich region to match the number of Chinese maritime militia vessels in the area.—AOL, GMA Integrated News