Boosting military forces is the best way to advance and assert the country’s sovereign rights, newly appointed Philippine Ambassador to China Jaime Florcruz said.
In his confirmation hearing with the Commission on Appointments (CA) late Wednesday, Florcruz was grilled by Senator Francis Tolentino on the reported harassment of Filipino fishermen as well as artificial islands reportedly being developed by China.
“Our foreign policy should be based on strength which means we should ensure our armed forces, our coastguards our Navy are well-funded, well trained because I believe that’s the best way to assert our sovereign rights, our territorial rights,” Florcruz said.
He noted that this is “easier said than done,” but “national unity should be the predicate of our foreign policy.”
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the position of Florcruz is one of the most sensitive positions because of the daily intrusions of China, particularly in the West Philippine Sea.
He also asked Florcruz if his 48 years of stay in China should in any way be disadvantageous to the Philippines.
“You can be assured that in my vein, in my mind, in my heart I’m a Filipino through and through and I never thought anything else except being Filipino. And I’ll proudly wave the Philippine flag in China,” Florcruz said.
Florcruz added that his goal is to serve as a bridge between China and the Philippines by relaying messages accurately and promptly.
He also defended the use of notes verbale in sending protests to China.
Florcruz said they are important because whenever the government makes diplomatic protests, a note verbale makes sure that these protests are on the record so that when the country must make a claim or case against a country, there will be a legal basis.
At this juncture, Zubiri told Florcruz to be “a friend to all, but firm with our territorial waters.”
As Ambassador to China, Florcruz said he will focus on people-to-people relationships.
He said he will encourage Filipinos to learn Chinese and Chinese to learn about the Philippines because this will facilitate a better relationship between the two countries.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked Florcruz about the emergence of China as a superpower.
“How do we traverse the emergence of China as a global superpower and a near-peer threat to the US and the rest of the West?” she asked.
The ambassador said he will pursue an independent foreign policy. “We make this delicate balance, the two superpowers, China the rising power, and the US the status quo power. I know it’s not easy, it’s a delicate balance,” she said. “I believe we are already beginning to do that and at the same time promoting or strengthening relations with the US,” she added.
“Our President is going to China for the same kind of reason which is to balance our relations. We are near China so there are many good reasons to make sure that we have good relations with our neighbor.”
Florcruz said this does not mean that the government will abandon the arbitral ruling award. “It does not mean we will sacrifice our sovereign and territorial rights, but we just have a good neighborly relationship with China, the same way that we wish to have good relations with the United States.”