Bill seeks to declare PCA ruling anniversary a special working holiday
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker from the Magdalo party-list has refiled a bill that proposes to make July 12 a special working holiday in commemoration of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) decision that debunked China’s nine-dash line territorial claim.
Rep. Manuel Cabochan III said he filed House Bill No. 1947 on Friday — exactly three years after the PCA ruling — after the 17th Congress failed to pass on second reading the original measure filed by former Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano.
“This is a well-intentioned measure highlighting one of the notable victories of our country. We need to preserve the significance of the PCA ruling for this showed to the world that the Philippines, despite being seen as a small nation, can stand up for its rights as an independent and sovereign state,” Cabochan said in a statement.
Aside from the possible holiday declaration, HB 1947 requires the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to include the history and issues about the West Philippine Sea as well as the PCA’s decision in the curriculum.
“The West Philippine Sea dispute will most likely remain as a central issue for our country in the coming years,” Cabochan explained.
“The future generations of Filipinos should be educated on this matter and its importance to our country’s national security, and food and energy resources,” he added.
In 2016, the PCA acted on the complaint filed by the previous administration, saying that China’s territorial claims — which includes a vast area of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and the western side of Philippine’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) — has no legal and historical basis.
Respondent China did not participate in the proceedings, claiming that it does recognize the case.
The information filed by the Philippines has strained its relations with the Asian superpower.
However, the ties were mended after President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration adopted an independent foreign policy, which does not favor leaning towards a single power.
Critics, on the other hand, claimed that Duterte’s foreign policy was just a ruse to get close to China whose maritime vessel and militia has had several incidents with Filipino fisherfolk at the WPS.
Still, Cabochan is not giving up on the remote possibility that the Philippine government would recognize the PCA ruling, despite previous pronouncements by Duterte that he would not use it.
“This bill also hopes to encourage the administration to make use of the PCA ruling to strengthen our own claims. War is not our only option to fight for our rights in our territory, and the PCA ruling proves just that,” he noted.
“Unfounded threats of war should not be an excuse to forget our duty to protect our independence and territorial integrity of our nation,” he added. /ee
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