Congress must oppose Chinese incursions in West PH Sea – Bayan Muna
MANILA, Philippines — Congress should take a stand against China’s latest aggressions in the West Philippine Sea, even as the Department of Foreign Affairs already filed diplomatic protests against Beijing hostile actions within Philippine territory.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate made this call on Thursday, stressing that the leadership of Congress could seek the support of the Asian Parliamentary Association (AIPO) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to denounce the Asian superpower’s expansion in the disputed region.
“As standing members of the [AIPO] and the [IPU], we should use these venues to gather international support to oppose Chinese expansionism and militarization of the West Philippine Sea,” he said in a statement.
“We may not win through military might but certainly we are strong in the legal, moral, and diplomatic arenas,” he added.
Earlier, Western Command (Wescom) chief Vice Admiral Rene Medina said the Navy’s ship BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) was on a sovereignty patrol mission when it encountered the Chinese corvette, with a bow No. 514, on February 17.
After the Navy ship warned the Chinese vessel about its presence on Philippine waters, the foreign vessel replied by saying that “the Chinese government has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea, its islands and its adjacent waters”.
Medina said the crew of the BRP Conrado Yap “visually observed” that the Chinese ship’s gun-firing mechanism was being aimed at the Philippine Navy vessel.
Zarate, who was present during a House hearing on the West Philippine Sea concerns before the Luzon-wide lockdown due to COVID-19 started, neither confirmed nor denied if the issue was tackled.
This revelation comes on the heels of Beijing’s move to name two administrative units as part of Hainan province, which included islands within the Philippine territory. Both issues have been addressed by the Philippine government in their diplomatic protests, which was filed Wednesday.
Previously, Zarate and Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares called on the government to participate in possible joint-border patrol operations with Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei — countries that also claims stakes in the contested maritime region, and which have voiced their opposition to China’s militarization of the resource-rich area.
Colmenares also scored Beijing for pushing its agenda while countries are focused on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic — which originated in China’s Wuhan City, Hubei province.
But aside from China, Zarate said that Asian countries should also watch out for other provocative actions, including those from the United States. Recently, American and Australian warships were spotted in the South China Sea for joint sea drills.
“Congress has the duty to look into the reported Chinese military build-up as well as the equally provocative actions of countries like the US with the end in view of defending our territory and EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” Zarate said.
“We should be at the forefront of finding ways to de-escalate tensions and demilitarize the region. We should also explore possible solutions that may require legislation or even diplomatic initiatives involving members of the legislative branches in the other claimant countries,” he added.
China and the Philippines have enjoyed renewed ties, largely due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to align with the Asian superpower and enforce an independent foreign policy.
However, critics have slammed the government’s alleged inaction on several issues and supposed problems that came with the Duterte administration’s cozy relationship with Beijing.
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