De Lima proposes July 12 as PH Victory Day vs China sea claim
President Duterte may have put the decision on the back burner, but Sen. Leila de Lima wants Filipinos to remember the day their country won a landmark victory in its challenge to China’s claim to nearly the entire South China Sea.
De Lima has filed a bill that would declare July 12 of every year a special working holiday to be known as the West Philippine Sea Victory Day.
The intention is to commemorate and instill national pride in the historic ruling of the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that invalidated Beijing’s claim to almost 90 percent of the strategic waterway, including waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone known as West Philippine Sea.
The remembrance of the day could also prompt the government to pursue programs consistent with the ruling, De Lima said.
A vocal critic of President Duterte’s brutal drug war and cozying up to China, De Lima has been detained since February 2017 on charges filed by the Department of Justice accusing her of involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs at the national penitentiary during her time as justice secretary.
She has denounced the charges as baseless and political persecution.
The Hague ruling stemmed from a challenge to China’s sweeping claim brought by President Benigno Aquino III in 2013 after China took control of Panatag Shoal, a traditional fishing ground for Filipinos off the coast of Zambales.
The decision was handed down on July 12, 2016, shortly after Aquino stepped down and Duterte took over.
Duterte has decided not to bring up the ruling with China for now, and has instead been cultivating friendship with the Philippines’ giant neighbor.
In her bill, De Lima said that despite the Philippines resorting to peaceful and legal means to oppose China’s aggressive island-building and militarization of the South China Sea, it still continued with its activities.
This was what prompted the Philippine government during the Aquino administration to challenge China’s excessive claim in the Hague court. De Lima, who was then the justice secretary, was part of the delegation that argued the Philippines’ case.
The tribunal ruled that China’s claim had no basis in international law and that it had violated the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea.
The tribunal also said Beijing’s large-scale reclamation in the South China Sea caused severe harm to the coral environment.
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