Colmenares calls for ‘independent foreign policy’ amid China-PH relations

Independence Day is typically celebrated as a day of rest while commemorating the hard-fought freedom that Filipinos have had since June 12, 1898. However, such practices have also been supplemented with staged rallies by protest groups and activists who continue to voice out their opposition toward the alleged loss of the nation’s sovereignty under the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Among those who took to the streets was former senatorial candidate and human rights lawyer Atty. Neri Colmenares. In an interview with The LaSallian, Colmenares emphasized the importance of Filipinos uniting to address Duterte’s “China Policy” and the Philippines’ alleged “huwad na kalayaan,” as chanted by the protesters.  

(“Sham independence”)

“Araw ng Kalayaan ngayon pero hindi ganap ang ating kalayaan dahil patuloy tayong dinidiktahan ng ibang bansa katulad ng Estados Unidos at Tsina,” expounded Colmenares.

(Today is Independence Day but our freedom seems untrue due to us being commanded by countries such as the United States and China.)

Chinese relations

When asked about the weight and importance of people’s attendance in today’s rallies, Colmenares agreed that it was “crucial” due to several reasons, “Crucial because President Duterte is giving away our territories to China…our fisherfolks cannot freely fish in Scarborough Shoal because the government allows China to drive [them] away.”

In relation to the issue, last June 9, a collision between Chinese and Filipino sea vessels was reported, which sank the latter’s boat and left 22 Filipino fishermen “to the mercy of the elements,” Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a public statement.

Further, Colmenares also expressed his disapproval of Chinese loans, which he explained allowed the Asian superpower to involve its contractors, laborers, and even their law to govern the agreed upon loan with the Philippines. He further emphasized the need to act fast on these issues, “We can’t wait until 2022 because that’s too long a time. By [then], we would be under a debt trap with China, or our territories in the West Philippine Sea will be gone.” The human rights lawyer hopes that the protests will “force Duterte to abandon his policy to [sell] Philippines to China.”

Banking on Filipino unity

Supporting his previous statements, Colmenares cited a poll by the Social Weather Stations in September 2018 where 84 percent of respondents said they were against the Chinese policy of Duterte, which “softened” the president, according to the lawyer.

“Well, President Duterte looks intractable, sounds intractable. He sounds very strong and brave against poor drug suspects, or [against] those [who] he thinks are against him. But the moment the unity of the Filipino people is achieved, he’ll backtrack,” he reasoned.

Colmenares pointed out that despite the current political climate the Philippines has, Duterte managed to “gather enough people to express opposition to his policy,” referring to that made with the Chinese.

He ended his statement by calling out to the general student body, mentioning the students of De La Salle University specifically, and to the Filipinos, to participate in the “bigger protest”. “Whether you’re pro-Duterte or against Duterte, join in the bigger protest against [furthering the] policy with China so that we can make President Duterte abandon this foreign policy.”

Colmenares concluded that the nation will need to “assert an independent foreign policy,” stating, “Hindi maka-Amerikano, hindi maka-Tsino, kundi maka-Pilipino.”

(Not for the Americans, not for the Chinese, but for the Filipinos.)

Ramon Castañeda

By Ramon Castañeda

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