OPPOSITION lawmakers thumbed down on Tuesday, February 20, President Rodrigo Duterte's joke that the Philippines should be a province of China.
"It is absolutely unacceptable for the President, the top diplomat of the country, to joke about making the Philippines a province of China," Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano said.
He added: "Such irresponsible banter is a slap in the face of the many Filipinos, including our soldiers stationed in our occupied islands, who work tirelessly to defend our territorial integrity from China."
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin warned that the such jokes will negate diplomatic attempts to assert Philippine sovereignty.
"It’s becoming a habit of the President to defer always to the wishes of China and such joke manifests his willful subservience at the expense of our sovereignty," he said.
"With him as President, we will become inutile to assert our rights even through diplomacy and will be sold to China for a pittance. The joke is on us if we don’t call him out for such irresponsible statements," Villarin added.
For his part, Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao said the joke is not funny. Rather, it was irresponsible considering that China has been constructing military facilities in the South China Sea.
“Even if it is a joke, it is a clear manifestation of the defeatist stand of the Duterte government against the continuing aggressive behavior of China in the South China Sea," Casilao said.
"He only acts tough against opposition, critics and poor Filipinos but with China, he has the audacity to even go too far to make the Philippines a province of China. That is very unpatriotic," he added.
On Monday, Duterte jokingly told an audience of Chinese-Filipino businessmen that the Philippines should be made a province of China.
"Kung gusto niyo gawin niyo na lang kaming province, parang Fujian, Philippines province of China. Eh, di wala tayong problema, libre na lahat," he said.
Alejano said Duterte's joke is close to the truth.
He disclosed that last month, he received a report that Chinese fishing vessels and the Chinese Coast Guard and Navy have been taking aggressive actions against the Philippines' Navy ship on Pag-asa Island.
According to Alejano, the Philippine Navy ship, which was then conducting a regular troop rotation and mission, sighted a Chinese vessel lurking approximately 4 nautical miles off Pag-asa Island.
"The Chinese vessels proceeded to form a semi-circle formation around Pag-asa Island. Meanwhile, the Chinese Coast Guard and Navy vessels closed in and shadowed the Philippine Navy ship for as close as 2 nautical miles northwest of Pag-asa Island, near the sandbars," he disclosed.
"The semi-circle formation and shadowing used by the Chinese vessels around the Philippine Navy ship displayed the 'cabbage strategy' being employed by China to control a specific area," Alejano alleged.
He said the Chinese vessels' quick response upon the arrival of the Philippines' Navy ship at Pag-asa Island suggests they are permanently stationed nearby.
Alejano said this shows how apathetic Duterte is to China’s "bastardization" of the country's sovereignty.
"It is alarming that his joke is actually quite close to the truth. This administration claims that it has remained steadfast in protecting the country’s territorial claims. Its inactions however, dictate otherwise," he said. (SunStar Philippines)