By Jigger J. Jerusalem
AN opposition senatorial candidate has challenged the administration candidates to go with them or on their own to the Scarborough Shoal, a part of the contested waters in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), to see for themselves the real situation there.
“If they want to come with us to the Scarborough Shoal, why not? They should accompany us and see what is actually going on there,” said senatorial candidate Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno.
Diokno put out the challenge as he has confirmed that his group, Otso Diretso, will push through with their planned visit to the shoal this week.
Speaking to reporters after the senatorial candidates’ forum at Lourdes College here late last week, the lawyer said he and his fellow candidates are determined to go to the Scarborough Shoal after the Coast Guard cleared them to visit the disputed maritime territory.
Diokno said they are just finalizing the common time and date for all the Otso Diretso candidates as each of them are busy with their group and individuals sorties.
He said every Filipino has the right to go not just to the Scarborough Shoal but all the Philippine territorial jurisdiction in the WPS.
“We are not there to fight the Chinese. If they see us, a group of civilians, I don’t anticipate any kind of hostility [from the Chinese military],” Diokno said.
If the Chinese military will drive them away, they will assert their right through civil means.
“If they use force against us, it’s on them,” he added.
Diokno has agreed with other analysts and political leaders that the country, acting on its own, could not achieve as much if the Philippines seeks the help of other nations, especially those who are also staking claims on the disputed waters.
“We must avail of the international community, to get the other countries behind us. Many will support us, not only because of the arbitral ruling, but on the premise that the international community operates on the principle of diplomacy,” he said.
In 2016, the tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in Hague, The Netherlands, ruled that China’s claim in the WPS is invalid under international law.