Senator Ping Lacson wants the Philippine government to strengthen its possession of the West Philippine Sea by adopting a policy of encouraging more settlers in the areas it already possesses.
Lacson, who visited Pag-Asa Island on Saturday, said in a press conference that beefing up the local possession will put more pressure on China to stop its bullying.
“Kung pwede lang ipopulate natin ang lugar na ‘yon at kung pwede ang iba mag migrate sa ibang island para maexpand ang ating possession,” Lacson said.
Lacson’s visit to Pag-Asa came in the wake of the latest incident of Chinese harassment in the area when one of its naval vessels blockaded and hosed a supply boat going to Ayungin Shoal, a remote location with only a small detachment of troops camped in an old naval wreck.
Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense, security, peace, and unification said the incident should also serve as a “wake-up call” for the government to strengthen its alliance with the United States, Japan, and Australia and seek a balance of power in the area.
‘Yong foreign policy ay napakahirap nito gawin alone kasi napakahina naman natin compared sa China. In fact, wina-water canon lang tayo ‘di ba? So, kailangan natin ng tulong ng ibang bansa, ‘yong mga malalakas hindi para makipag gyera kundi para makamaintain ng tinatawag natin na balance of power para kahit anong bansa hindi pwede i-bully na lang tayo sa sarili nating teritoryo,” Lacson said.
Lacson noted that the security sector is still conducting an assessment on the incident and would come up with its own policy recommendations.
‘Yon ang patuloy na ina-assess ng security sector kasi unusual ang nangyari although since 2014 ay tuloy-tuloy ang resupply nila nyan. Unwanted naman ang ginawa ng China dahil dati naman nagre-resupply bakit ngayon bigla silang pinigilan. Dapat i-assess ng mabuti ng defense establishment bakit nangyari ‘yon,” he said.
He also urged that livelihood assistance be provided to the fishermen on the island.
“Fisherfolk ang tinamaan, lagi silang threaten pero beyond that ‘yong livelihood mismo talaga doon sa Kalayaan o Pagasa dapat talaga pagukulan ng pansin ng gobyerno. Ngayon tayo dapat bigyan ng livelihood ang mga tao doon sa pagasa para sa halip na kumunti ay dumami sila,” he said.
Lacson was joined in the visit to Pag-Asa Island by senatorial candidate Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, and former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.