WPS turning into political, partisan issue, says analyst

wps turning into political, partisan issue, says analyst

WPS turning into political, partisan issue, says analyst

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s dispute with China regarding the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is now turning into a political and a partisan issue amid the feud between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

This was a political expert’s observation involving the worsening clash between the two.

The rift has grown wider more recently, after it was revealed that Duterte supposedly entered a pact with China, the so-called Duterte-China gentleman’s agreement, which he himself later confirmed to be an agreement not to repair or reinforce the BRP Sierra Madre or the Philippine military outpost at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal during his administration.

READ: Ex-president Duterte, China confirm pact not to repair PH outpost

Discuss privately

However, according to Political Analyst Edmund Tayao, both parties could have discussed the topic privately, as it is now merely being politicized into a partisan issue—a topic that should have been dealt with simply as a security issue.

“The issue of the West Philippine Sea is being used as a political issue, political in the sense that it’s being used more for partisan purposes,” Tayao told INQUIRER.net.

“But if we’re going to talk about propriety, and we’re going to speak of what’s best moving forward, it would have been best if the former President tried to speak to the incumbent President about it privately, regardless of whether they have political or partisan differences,” he added.

According to Tayao, since the topic directly involves the country’s security, the only ones being put at a disadvantage are the Filipino people.

Internal division?

“You don’t discuss very sensitive issues in public, not so much because you don’t trust the people, but you don’t want to communicate to other interested parties, foreign interested parties, to the international community, particularly China, for that matter that we have internal divisions,” he explained.

Tayao said that as a former President, Duterte is automatically a member of the National Security Council, which makes it that much easier for him to privately discuss the issue with Marcos.

“This is why some people are joining in on the issue, because it is being used for partisan purposes,” he noted.

Asked what could be the reason behind making the WPS a partisan issue, Tayao responded that it was “obviously” for political purposes.

“This is being made political for obvious reasons. They want people to see what they want them to see—to use it for their own purposes. Whether that is for their advantage or not, I don’t think they really thought of it that much,” he said.

US-centric ally tag, unfair

In the same interview with INQUIRER.net, Tayao also pointed out that the recent tagging of the Marcos administration as a US-centric ally is unfair.

Tayao said this after Duterte and his allies criticized Marcos for allegedly being pro-US.

Just days after Marcos expressed disapproval of Duterte’s “gentleman’s agreement” with China, Duterte tagged Marcos a “crybaby,” and accused him of only talking about America.

READ: Marcos to Duterte: No place for ad hominem attacks in important talks

“I‘d like to emphasize that it’s unfair to say that we are going back to the previous foreign policy limitation, which is plain and simple America,” said Tayao.

According to Tayao, it was partly because of Duterte’s reorientation of the country’s foreign policy which triggered the country into forming newer and closer relationships with other countries.

But he explained that it was precisely for this reason why there seems to be an “extraordinary focus on the US,” because it was sidelined during Duterte’s administration.

Renewing ties

“So now we’re renewing these ties with the US, that’s the reason why they’re saying we’re cozying up to the US, but actually we’re simply renewing it,” said Tayao.

“If we are plain and simple following what the US wants, then our relationship with the US would be the only relationship that is available, but the truth is, it’s not,” he added.

Tayao noted that the country has successfully entered into bilateral maritime discussions and agreements with several countries, including its neighbors Vietnam, Malaysia and India.

Because of this, Tayao remarked that the current administration’s approach in dealing with China’s aggression in the WPS seems to be effective in terms of exposing its actions.

“The formula that the admin has come up with which is to expose publicly and consistently the behavior of China in the WPS, appears to be working,” he explained.

2025 Elections?

Meanwhile, Tayao also noted how the feud may have an effect in the upcoming 2025 senatorial elections, explaining that the WPS may even be raised in the said elections, potentially impacting the slate of candidates for senators and different political parties.

Asked if this could be the reason behind the recent jabs from Duterte’s allies against Marcos—specifically, Marcos’ own former executive secretary Victor Rodriguez, Duterte’s former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and former Speaker Pantaleon Alvares—Tayao said it was hard to say.

“By way of analogy, most likely, because they do belong to the same group. But further than that I really have no idea, they may potentially run or they may have other plans in the future. But I can’t say with certainty,” said Tayao.

To recall, Rodriguez recently called on Marcos to take a hair follicle drug test, seemingly reigniting Duterte’s drug allegations against the President in January, during a Davao prayer rally.

Alvares, for his part, also called on both the police and military to withdraw their support from Marcos.

READ: AFP, PNP reject Alvarez’s call to turn back on gov’t

Roque, who was the first to mention Duterte’s “gentleman’s agreement” with China back in March, on the other hand, accused Marcos of being against China, warning that may result in the country losing its ground in Ayungin Shoal.

Meanwhile, Tayao reminded the public to familiarize themselves more with issues being tackled by Marcos and Duterte, and to only do so with legitimate information.

“If we really want to understand, let’s not just go with the bandwagon. Let’s comprehend the issue so we can understand and not get confused or blame others.,” said Tayao.

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