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Magdalo solon: What happened to Duterte jet ski vow?

In this photo, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano holds a copy of the impeachment complaint he filed against President Rodrigo Duterte at the House of Representatives. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines — An opposition congressman on Tuesday scoffed at President Rodrigo Duterte for claiming during the campaign last year that he would ride a jet ski to the West Philippine Sea to assert the country’s territorial rights there.

In a statement, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano asked Duterte to lend him the president’s jet ski, which has become rusty according to the lawmaker, so that he could use it if ever he would lead the country’s troops against China.

Alejano said: “Pahiram ako ng jet ski niya, kinakalawang na kasi di niya ginagamit.”

During the campaign last year, Duterte bragged in a presidential debate that he would jet ski to the South China Sea to tell the Chinese that the area is part of the country’s territory.

“I will ask the Navy to bring me to the nearest boundary. Bababa ako sasakay ako ng jet ski dala-dala kung yung flag ng Pilipino at pupunta ako dun sa airport nila tapos itanim ko. And I would say, ‘This is ours and do what you want with me,’” said Duterte who always said that he would live and die by his promises to his country.  

Alejano also chided the president for painting the Philippines as helpless and defenseless in defending its territory.

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The lawmaker said that the government had many options at its disposal, and Duterte was just not exploring these.

“Hindi po totoo ang sinasabi ng ating Pangulo na wala na tayong magagawa. Sa katunayan, marami tayong pwedeng gawing non- military and non-confrontational options, ayaw lang niyang gawin,” he said.

Alejano, a former Navy officer, said that the president should refrain from making it appear as though a war is the only option available to the Philippines.

“Military confrontation is not the only option, but it should be our last option,” he said.

The Magdalo lawmaker said that all the president had to do was to revisit the various options proposed in the past regarding the actions they could take in the face of increasing Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

He said that the Duterte administration should use the arbitral ruling invalidating much of Chinese claim in the area as a bargaining chip in the maritime dispute.

He also criticized the president for not coordinating with his national security team as evidenced by the statements coming from the Defense and Foreign Affairs departments.

Alejano said that one non-military option the government could use was the relative distance of China and the Philippines from the West Philippine Sea. He said the proximity of the Philippines with the disputed area could be taken advantage of.

“We could also easily seek shelter on our shores during typhoons while the Chinese patrol ships may need to abandon their post thus we can secure the area before they return,” he said.

He also suggested strengthening the Philippine Coast Guard for it to effectively patrol the area and employing marine research vessels to show the country’s resoluteness in defending its territory.

Alejano said that Filipino fishermen should be provided with sturdier boats that could withstand the harsh weather in Panatag Shoal and the West Philippine Sea.

“We can strategically deploy and train our fishermen to utilize the natural resources in the area. We could provide them with advanced communication system so that we could aid or defend them should they be threatened by Chinese ships,” he recommended.

Although his group expressed support for the need to have an independent foreign policy, Alejano said that the government should always prioritize the country’s interests.

If after exhausting all options China resorts to a military confrontation, the Philippines should trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty according to Alejano.

“The US and Japanese militaries are already more than a match for the Chinese which is the main reason why China is resorting to bully tactics and bluffing with its civilian maritime agencies so as not to provoke a military response from other regional and global powers,” he said.

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