Sen. Bam’s Privilege Speech on China issues

Sen. Bam’s Privilege Speech on China issues

Magandang araw, Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, majority floor leader! Magandang, magandang  hapon po sa inyong lahat!

To quote a very popular love song, a picture paints a thousand words.

Well, this particular picture inspired a thousand memes and thousands of comments.

Several of our countrymen raised their eyebrows and voiced their confusion and outrage.

Sabi nga ho ni Defense Sec. Lorenzana “Maybe Malacañang thinks that it is correct dahil ginawa nila yun. Do not torture our minds about giving meaning to these very trivial things.”

Well, Mr. President, marami po sa mga kababayan natin, hindi naisip na trivial iyong pagkawala ng ating bandila sa pagdating ni President Xi Jinping.

Hindi naman siguro masamang tanungin kung may violation nga ba o hindi iyong ginawang pagparada sa bandila ng China, na wala po ang ating three stars and a sun.

To be honest, Mr. President, the pivot to China opened a Pandora’s Box of questions regarding the Philippines’ dealings with a powerful and more domineering neighbor.

These, dear friends, are questions and concerns that have already been raised in the past 2 years, even before the 2-day state visit of China’s president.

Hindi rin naman sigurong masamang magtanong tungkol sa sarili nating teritoryo, sa sarili po nating karagatan na mas malawak pa sa kabuuan ng ating lupain at naglalaman ng sang-katutak na isda, langis at iba pang kayamanan – kayamanang pag-aari ng ating taumbayan.

Ngayon napanalo na ng Pilipinas ang kaso laban sa China sa International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas o ITLOS at kinlaro na sa mundo ang ating exclusive economic zone sa West Philippine Sea, anu-ano ang paraan kung paano po mapoprotektahan itong sariling atin?

Just to remind everyone, based on satellite photos obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in February 2018, China appeared to be in the final stages of constructing air and naval bases in seven reefs in the Spratlys Region, including Mischief or Panganiban and Subi or Zamora Reefs, over which the Philippines has exclusive right and jurisdiction as ruled by the UN Tribunal.

Worse, last May 2018, US Intelligence reports revealed that China had installed anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles on these reefs. Again, let me clarify Mr. President, these are missiles installed within our own country – within the Philippines’ jurisdiction.

To this incident, President Duterte was quoted in saying: “In the play of politics, now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling. I will not impose anything on China.”

However, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Peter Cayetano said: “We have to put aside our territorial and sovereign rights claims but not abandon them. The preliminary agreement is based on: let’s cooperate first, and let’s talk about who owns what, and who has jurisdiction, later on.”

Clearly, Mr. President, mayroon talagang paglilinaw na dapat gawin sa ating pakikitungo sa China.

Napakahalaga rin kwestyunin ang legalidad ng militarization ng China sa West Philippine Sea.

Uulitin ko po, mayroon Chinese air and naval bases sa loob ng ating karagatan. Mayroon pong anti-ship at surface-to-air missiles ang China sa loob ng karagatan ng Pilipinas.

Ang isa sa mga tinayuan ng Chinese military base ay ang Mischief o Panganiban Reef na 250 kilometers lang ang layo sa Palawan. Ito’y kasing layo ng Baguio sa dito ngayon sa Senado – a 4-hour drive ang layo.  In fact, kung iisipin natin, 250 kilometers mayroon nang missiles at armas dito.

I will also clarify that Article XVIII, Section 25 of our 1987 Constitution it states that – and I quote – “…foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.” – end quote.

That said, is it not prohibited under the Philippine Constitution to consent to the presence of Chinese air and naval bases, now armed with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, unless a treaty is signed with China? Hindi naman siguro masamang usisain ang legalidad ng mga military base na ito.

Ito pong isyu na ito, diretso po sa tingin po namin, ang contradiction sa ating Saligang Batas. Mahalaga po na maklaro agad kung mayroon ngang violation sa ating Constitution ang pagpayag dito sa China air bases sa ating teritoryo.

This leads us to even more painful and personal questions – mga tanong tungkol sa pang-aabuso ng mga mangingisdang Pilipino, sa pananakot sa ating media at mga reporter, at sa pagbibigay ng trabaho sa mga Tsino imbis na mga Pilipino.

Just last November 8, China stopped a Filipino TV crew from conducting interviews in the West Philippine Sea, stating that the Filipino reporters cannot proceed without the permission of China.

Ang sabi ng isang miyembro ng Chinese Coast Guard kay Jun Veneracion ng Reporters’ Notebook: “Without the permission of China, you cannot carry out the interview here.”

Earlier this year, on May 20, a video showed two men boarding the boat of a Filipino fisherman.

Sinabi po ng ating mangingisda: “Wala po silang paalam. Halungkatin nila ‘yun, basta maghalungkat sila, Sir. Kukunin nila ‘yung gusto nila. Ilagay nila sa plastic, magaganda pa ang kunin nila.” I’m assuming that he’s talking about the fish na hinuli ng ating mangingisda.

Sabi pa ni Manong Rony, na isa ring mangingisda: “Sa tingin ko po parang sila rin ang boss dito. Sila po ang nasusunod eh. Wala po kaming magagawa kung sabihin nilang aalis kami. Wala kaming power na ipaglaban ‘yung sarili namin. Batas din nila yung nasusunod dito sa Scarborough.” (Reporter’s Notebook)

Hindi naman po masamang tanungin kung tama ba itong nangyayari sa ating media, kung tama ba ang nangyayari sa ating mangingisda, sa ating mga kababayan sa sarili po nating teritoryo.

Punta rin tayo Build-Build-Build na malaki ang koneksiyon sa China.

Ilang proyekto na ang nabigyan ng go-signal?

Ilan na po ba ang nasimulan na?

Kailan po ba matatapos ang mga ito?

Anong part ng Build-Build-Build program ang uutangin sa China?

Ano ang napagkasunduang terms at interest rate?

Kasama ba sa kontrata na mga Tsino at hindi Pilipino ang magtatrabaho sa mga proyektong ito?

Ilang trabaho ba ang nakalaan talaga sa mga kababayan nating Pilipino?

So far, Mr. President, this is what we do know:

One: In 2016, the President visited China and came home with $24 Billion of Chinese loans and investment pledges for Build Build Build. So far, only 2 bridge projects worth 62.28 million U.S. dollars, and these are grants, and one irrigation project worth 62.09 million U.S. dollars are ongoing.

Second: The government’s Pipeline of Programs and Project for Official Development Assistance as of September 28, 2018 includes 16 projects that will be funded with loans from China amounting to a total of 740.45 Billion Pesos.

Three, Mr. President: Chinese loans are not only “tied” loans or loans with conditions, but they have a higher interest rate roughly anywhere up to 3% than the “untied” loans we are getting from other countries like Japan.

Isang Pandora’s Box po talaga ang nabukas dito po sa ating pagkiling natin sa China.

At mga kaibigan, kailangan talagang maklaro sa ating mga kababayan ang mga sagot sa mga tanong na ito.

Pagdating sa paglaban sa ating teritoryo, pagdating sa paglaban para sa ating mangingisda, pagdating po sa mga proyekto na posible pong pumasok sa ating bansa at narinig na rin natin ng debt trap gaya ng Sri Lanka na kung saan iyong mga bansang nabaon sa utang ay nangangailangan na magbigay o magpaubaya ng kanilang kasarinlan.

Isa pong Pandora’s Box ng mga tanong mga kaibigan, at tingin ko po ang Senado ay may kapangyarihan at mayroong tungkulin na isara ang isyung ito , na sagutin ang mga isyung ito tungkol sa China sa pamamagitan ng paghanap at paghingi ng makatotohanang mga sagot.

The Senate does not only have the power and privilege to search for these answers; we have a duty to shed light on these issues and ensure that the government is in the favor of the Filipino people and not in favor of China in its dealings.

Mr. President, let me share a short history lesson. In September of 1991, Philippine senators made history by ending years of U.S. military presence in the Philippines, even when many believed that the presence of U.S. bases was good for livelihood and for the economy, and, therefore, in the best interest of the Filipino people.

It was a difficult decision then, Mr. President. Sen. Gordon is here, my aunt President Cory Aquino was on the side of retaining the US bases. But the Senate at that time, Mr. President, made a fateful decision.  To this day, that decision is lauded as one that upheld the independence of our country.

Ngayon po, tinatawag tayo muli ang Senado na mamuno at pumanig sa kapwa nating Pilipino. We are again called to take the lead in terms of transparency, sovereignty and national security.

Umaasa po kami na kaya po ng Senado na klaruhin ang mga tanong na ito upang mapanatag naman ang kalooban ng ating mga kababayan na sa ating teritoryo, para sa ating kabuhayan, trabaho, imprastruktura, mga kontrata at mga benepisyo – sigurado po na dapat una ang Pilipino at panalo ang Pilipino dito sa sarili nating bansa at sa anumang pakikitungo sa anumang bansa dito sa ating mundo.

Umaasa ang ating mga kababayan na dito sa Pilipinas, mauuna ang Pilipino.

Let the Senate hopefully, Mr. President, take the lead and shed light on the myriad issues on China for fellow Filipinos, for our country, and, of course, for the future of our children. Maraming salamat po, Mr. President. Thank you.

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