Privilege Speech on the Resumption of Bilateral Talks with China, the

Need for a Settlement of the Disputed Territories and Restoration of
the ―Good Neighbor Policy‖ in the West Philippine Sea (South China
and Other Issues, Trade, Tourism, Cultural Exchange, Security, Labor,
Education and Cooperation on Climate Change


President, Association of Women Legislators Foundation, Inc.
House of Representatives
and Leader of Congresswomen‘s Delegation to China

May 26, 2014

LIKE CHAIRMAN Mao Zedong of the People‘s Republic of China who had
acknowledged early on that ―Women hold up half the sky‖, the
Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, over a century ago, had also
recognized that women are co-builders of our nation and even stated in
his famous ―Letter To The Young Women of Malolos,‖ that ―because we
have you for our allies, we are confident of victory‖.


Yes, technically therefore, without women in our planet holding up 50%
of the sky, the sky will come crashing down.

It is in this spirit of egalitarianism in nation-building that the
Association of Women Legislators Foundation, our All-Women‘s Caucus in
the House, with the blessing of our House leadership, Speaker
Feliciano Belmonte – accepted the invitation of the International
Department of the Communist Party of China for a ten-day
people-to-people, inter-parliamentary, women-to-women inter-party
visit to China.


We believe that this friendly exchange between Congressional
representatives and the ruling Communist Party of China will further
strengthen our country‘s commitment to the Joint Summit Declaration
between our reformist President Benigno Aquino and then Chinese
President Hu Jintao, that the West Philippine Sea is not the sum total
of Philippine-China relations, and that bilateral trade, as the
Chinese envisioned, should significantly enlarge and reach $60
billion and two million two-way tourist traffic by 2016.


More importantly, this visit was a fitting follow-up and sequel to the
highly successful people-to-people exchange between the Philippine
congresswomen and the Communist Party of China, government officials
and civil society leaders in Beijing in April of 2012, where we agreed
with then Vice Chairperson of the Standing Committee of China‘s
National People‘s Congress and President of the All-China Women‘s
Federation, Chen Zhili, to promote ―Hu Jing Hu Hui, Cong Tong Fa
Zhan‖ (Mutual Respect, Mutual Benefit, Joint Development) in the
conduct of Sino-Philippine relations.

AT THIS POINT, allow me to introduce the 12- women delegation to
China, from May 8 to May 18:

• Congresswoman Maria Lourdes Acosta-Alba of the Liberal Party,
representing the 1st District of Bukidnon;

• Congresswoman Belma A. Cabilao of the Nationalista Party, from the
1st District of Zamboanga Sibugay;

• Congresswoman Mercedes C. Cagas of Nationalista Party,
representing the 1st District of Davao Del Sur;

• Congresswoman Julieta R. Cortuna of A Teacher Partylist;

• Myself, Congresswoman Gina P. De Venecia of the Liberal Party, from
the 4th District of Pangasinan;

• Congresswoman Gwendolyn F. Garcia of the United Nationalist
Alliance, from Cebu‘s 3rd District;

• Congresswoman Elisa ―Olga‖ T. Kho of Nationalista Party, from the
2nd District of Masbate;

• Congresswoman Rosenda Ann Ocampo of the Liberal Party, representing
the 6th District of Manila.

Congresswoman Ocampo was also gracious enough to assume the leadership
of the Delegation, when I cut my visit short and rushed back home, due
to the critical condition of my mother, Azucena Vera Perez. Sadly,
Mama died, two hours before my plane landed in Manila;

• Congresswoman Leah S. Paquiz, of ANG NARS Partylist;

• Congresswoman Marie Anne S. Pernes of the Lone District of
Siquijor from the Liberal Party;

• Congresswoman Josephine R. Sato of the Liberal Party, from the Lone
District of Occidental Mindoro;

• and Congresswoman Juliette T. Uy of the Second District of Misamis
Oriental, from the National Unity Party.


OUR DELICATE VISIT TO China, can be described as productive, an
eye-opener and a trail-blazer. Everywhere we‘ve been, we‘ve all made
individual contacts—and formed friendships—that will long outlast the

In the words of Congresswoman Ocampo, ‗We came here. You wowed us!‘
for that was exactly the kind of extraordinary reception that we got.
And to put it more succinctly, Vice Minister Chen Fengxian of the
International Department of the CPC said: "China and the Philippines
are close neighbours, and we look at you as our family member."


After all, how can China forget that the Philippines was perhaps the
first or among the first nations in the world that embraced the
Chinese people, as evidenced by the establishment of the Parian and
the very first Chinatown in Binondo, Manila in 1594, where the dynamic
Filipino-Chinese society thrive to this day, not as strangers but as
part of the Filipino family and as our very own.

That sentimental bond perhaps explained, why, in spite of the sometime
hurtful and inflammatory words both our Philippine Government and
Chinese Government spokesmen have uttered and exchanged, China was
among the first responders to save and help the victims of super
typhoon ―Yolanda‖ in central Philippines ----- something no Filipino
could ever forget, because during one of our darkest hours in the
strongest typhoon with ocean surge recorded in history, China
immediately dispatched the state-of-the art Chinese floating hospital,
the ―Peace Ark‖ and the A-320 aircraft, with 50 doctors for
humanitarian assistance. Thank you China!


SPEAKER Belmonte, my colleagues in the House of Representatives, it is
on this premise, that I rise on a matter of personal privilege to talk
about the need for active resumption of our country‘s bilateral talks
with China, seek creative and pragmatic solutions to the disputed
isles in the West Philippine Sea, the South China Sea, to augment or
add to the constructive possibilities in our relations in the light of
the Arbitration case brought by the Philippines in the United Nations
Law of the Sea Tribunal, and to the further improvement of the
understanding between our nations, on trade, cultural exchange,
tourism, security, labor, education and active cooperation in the
battle against climate change and environmental degradation.


In our numerous dialogues with the different officials of the
International Department of the CENTRAL Committee of the Communist
Party of China, we gathered that China was hurt by our country‘s move
to seek arbitration, as a means to resolve the conflict in the waters
of the China Sea.

Here is a direct quote from the CPC‘s International Department Vice
Minister Chen, regarding arbitration. He said: ―Our bilateral
relations is low right now. This dispute however does not paint the
whole picture of our relationship. It is highly complicated. .....Our
relationship has become more complicated now that the Philippines has
taken confrontational stance on this issue by going to arbitration.
Now, you have closed the door for negotiation. Now, all the outcome of
agreements we shared in the past is to no avail. Such a pity. The move
to settle our dispute through arbitration, it will not help in the
resolution of it all. It‘s a great concern for us.‖

This remark prompted, Hon. Gwen Garcia to say: "Our countries can be
likened to a house with shut windows, but the occupants‘ hearts and
minds remain open. We (the Philippines) will always remain so. With
open mind, we will extend our heart to make peace with brother China.‖


This was followed by a statement from Hon. Josephine Sato, who said:
"Put in the right perspective, our President—he, in private, had
suffered great violence in their family during the days of the
dictatorship, and ----he will not lead our country to a dangerous
confrontation with our most important partner in Asia. The President
believes that arbitration is the most peaceful way to settle the

Hon. Ocampo, further said : The Central Committee has invited our
delegation, which means that the IDCPC is firm in its stand that we
need more bridges, and foster more people-to-people relations between
China and the Philippines. When diplomacy fails, enduring friendship
will save the day and take us on the next phase of our relationship.‖

To all these, Vice Minister Chen said: "I think that we can still find
solution for our mutual development as nations. There may be
misconceptions, and I think that we can have exchange of ideas. I
still think though that it is a bilateral issue."


He was also quick to extol the virtues of the delegates who came to
China despite the on-going tension. He said: "I commend you for your
courage to come here at this sensitive time. Now that you‘re here, it
fully shows your courage and sincerity to improve our bilateral
relations. Our party is eager to develop relations on a mutual
benefit. So, more party-to- party exchanges between the CPC and
Philippine political parties. We are not closing our door and our
stand is not confrontational. And after hearing your words, I feel
confident on the future of our bilateral relations. Let‘s work
together for the future of our nations."

IN THIS LIGHT and on the basis of our significant blood ties and
uninterrupted history of "good-neighbor" relations, I propose the
creation of a Philippine-China Council to be composed of eminent
persons, peace-makers, economic experts, representatives from the
academe, historians, geo-political experts, civil society leaders who
will meet with counterparts in China, to specifically address the
problem in the China Sea and strengthen bilateral ties, and areas of
common concern and mutual benefit in trade, tourism, education,
cultural exchange, security, labor and education, women and youth
development, and mutual cooperation in the battle against climate


Because, in the end, we have to admit that our bilateral ties go far
beyond this maritime conflict over a few islets. As pointed out by
Deputy Director Rao Huihua of IDCPC‘s Asia- Pacific Affairs: "It is
hard to believe that we will go to conflict because of those little

This view was also shared by Secretary-General Ni Jian of the Chinese
Association for International Understanding, who said: ―The South
China Sea disputes are not the whole picture of China-Philippine
relations. We should not stare at this single issue while neglecting
other aspects of the bilateral relations. Otherwise we may lose the
paramount picture of the relations and compromise the overall
interests of our people.‖

In 2012, for example, over 1.1 million people travelled across the two
countries and the volume of bilateral trade stood at a record high of
36.4 billion US dollars. At the same time, the Philippines was also
China‘s sixth largest trading partner among ASEAN countries, while
China, including Hong Kong was the largest export market for the


ONE OF THE PROVINCES that we visited during this trip was Shandong,
and it was a real eye-opener for us, in terms of the sentimental
nature of China-Philippine relations.

The wisest man from Shandong and from China --- the great Confucius,
once said: Study the past, if you would divine the future.

Our congresswomen and I were deeply touched when we learned that a
Filipino king, the Sultan Paduka Pahala of Sulu journeyed to China to
pay tribute to the Yongle Chinese Emperor Zhu Di of Sulu and was
stricken ill in 1417, more than 100 years before the Spanish
conquerors came, was buried in Shandong after the equivalent of a most
successful official visit to the Emperor of China.

But on his way home, he developed a mysterious disease and died. The
kind Emperor, upon learning of his death, commissioned artisans and
sculptors to build a tomb to his neighbour ally. And in a town called
Dezhou, his burial spot remains as a well-maintained historical site,
an ancestral monument to Philippine-Chinese relations.

Theirs was a relationship, marked by mutual respect and mutual benefit
(Hu Jing, Hu Hui) as exhibited by the mighty Emperor, who treated the
sultan as his equal even if his was just a tiny kingdom as compared to
his giant Chinese empire.


IN VIEW of the current misunderstanding between our two countries, I
believe it‘s prudent that we pause and reflect on the friendship
forged by our forebears and use it as a model for reinvigorating our
bilateral relations, and rebuild and sustain the ―Good Neighbor‖
policy that has prevailed uninterrupted in our 1,000 years of


In the spirit of the principle, Hu Jing, Hu Hui, I therefore suggest
that both countries should consider following the formula of China's
paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who opened China to the world and
launched China's extraordinary economic modernization, that the
claimant states should consider shelving or postpone the issue of
sovereignty for a later time; agree to explore and develop in
partnership the areas they claim competitively; and let mutual benefit
and equitable profits of oil and gas production --- and time --- ease
the dangerous nationalist fervor the rival claims have raised.


Along this line, I recall that my husband, Former Speaker Jose De
Venecia, helped guide national policymaking on the West Philippine Sea
in this moderate—practical and common-sensical--- direction, with the
end goal of converting this Zone of Conflict into a Zone of Peace,
Friendship and Development.


He proposed as early as 1974 and 1987 demilitarizing the disputed
islets through the phased withdrawal of the armed garrisons, agree on
a joint oil-and–gas drilling program, and equitably share the profits
of production in our collective frontyard or backyard in the sea, to
reduce our dependence on foreign oil, for today, we send our oil
tanker fleets to great distances in the Middle East to buy and lift
our critical oil/gas supply requirements.


In 2004, when he concretized the proposal, the Philippines, China and
Vietnam governments signed on unprecedented, historic agreement
through their state-owned companies to undertake a seismic survey of
the disputed areas in the South China Sea, clearly as a prelude to
joint exploration and development, and from 2004 to 2006, there was
unprecedented peace in the South China Sea. He hoped that this
unprecedented agreement will eventually include the other claimant
states, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

At the end of this process, then Speaker de Venecia argued, we will
have converted a zone of conflict into a Zone of Peace, Friendship,
Cooperation and Development.


I also suggested in China designation of "fishing corridors" and
perhaps alternating periods for fishing fleets from so-called three
frontline states of the Philippines, China and Vietnam to avoid
further tensions, confrontation, and arrest, of fishermen in the sea.


We said negotiated geo-political settlements, through bilateral and/or
multilateral means, by diplomacy, dialogue, back-channeling, Track I,
Track I.5, or Track II diplomacy are necessary for peace and
reconciliation in the conflict areas of Asia all the way to the
Ukraine in Eurasia.


In Chongqing, China's war-time capital, where a vigorous micro-finance
fund is financing tens of thousands of small-scale industries, our
delegation proposed an All-Asian, All-Women Anti-Poverty Fund or an
Asian Micro-Finance Fund to fight poverty in the rural areas or urban
slums of Asia.

We noted that the Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, whose founder received
the Nobel Prize, maximized micro loans to women borrowers for hundreds
of thousands of "self-employment jobs", with an exemplary repayment
record of some 97%.


On Mothers Day, May 11, in the course of our visit, we praised the
heroic role of Chinese Women in the civil war and in the founding of
the People's Republic of China. We also noted the lifting of more than
400-million people from poverty, the building of a huge middle-class
and the largest mass-housing program in history, which we hope, we can
avail of in our own battle against poverty in the Philippines.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, inn the end, we have to
rebuild our bilateral ties with China, because these temporary
disturbances in the Philippines-China relations are as nothing --- set
in the context of the blood ties and the years of friendship between
the two countries, since the 7th century‘s Tang Dynasty.

In the midst of our China visit, I had to rush back home, take the
bullet train from Shandong to Shanghai and a connecting airline to
Manila but my mother, Azucena Vera Perez, perished two hours before my
arrival. The rest of the delegation journeyed on to Beijing.


My dear colleagues: today I am filled with optimism that our
countries— the Philippines and China will not allow further
disagreements to hurt our bilateral relations and to damage the Asian
Century that together, our peoples are trying their best to build.

Thank you!