“Medyo nagulat ako sa sinabi na ‘set aside our differences in the West Philippine Sea.’”
This according to Senator Risa Hontiveros as she insisted that government should ensure that purchasing or receiving Chinese vaccines would not compromise our strategic goals and foreign policy objectives, particularly on the West Philippine Sea.
“Hindi porke’t bibili tayo ng Chinese vaccines o tatanggap tayo ng donasyon at regalo mula sa Tsina ay isasantabi na natin ang ating mga karapatan at teritoryo sa West Philippine Sea. Up until now, despite the international community collectively rejecting China’s claims on our seas, China remains resolute in asserting unrightful ownership of our territories,” Hontiveros said.
During the Committee of the Whole hearing on the country’s vaccination program, Hontiveros urged vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. to assure the public that we will continue to assert our national interest and that it is not conceded in the name of China’s so-called vaccine diplomacy.
At first, Galvez responded that the country’s differences with China in the West PH Sea should be set aside to “save humanity” amid the pandemic.
Hontiveros expressed alarm at Galvez’s response:
“I’m simply asking for a reassurance na hindi natin babawasan ang ating pagtaguyod ng ating national interest sa West Philippine Sea, kahit dito sa usapin sa pagbili ng vaccine sa Tsina.”
The senator also said that the public’s seeming low confidence in China-made vaccines may not only be because of the opaqueness of the data and information on Chinese vaccines, but also because of China’s “vaccine diplomacy” that could force countries to defer to its demands.
“Sa totoo lang, mukhang mababa ang kumpiyansa ng publiko ukol sa mga bakuna na manggagaling sa China, kahit na ito ang binibida ng Malakanyang. Hindi rin nakakatulong yung pagtatakip at kawalan ng transparency ukol sa pagbili ng mga bakuna na yan,” the senator said.
In this light, Hontiveros said the government should be able to tackle many issues at the same time.
“Our country can continue to occupy several platforms at the same time. Yung platform natin sa global partnership against COVID-19, lalo na through COVAX, at yung platform na napanalunan natin sa The Hague. I don’t think one is exchangeable for the other and we are within our rights na patuloy na iadvance yung ating common at saka national interests on both those platforms,” she concluded.