Senators cross party lines to denounce China’s ‘illegal, unwarranted incursions’
MANILA, Philippines — Eleven senators on Monday closed ranks in denouncing China’s “illegal and unwarranted incursions” in the West Philippine Sea, acts they described as “threatening the peace and security in this region and the world.”
The senators led by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto filed a strongly worded resolution calling on the chamber to “condemn in the strongest possible terms” Beijing’s acts in the disputed waters.
“[Neither] close diplomatic and political ties nor promise of donations, aids or loans, whether they actually materialize or not, should be mistaken as acceptance of China’s creeping hegemony over our region and country, and no promise of economic largesse often undelivered should soften our resolve against these illegal and unwarranted incursions,” the resolution read in part.
Crossing party lines
The senators crossed party lines to introduce Senate Resolution No. 708. The other signatories are Senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Lito Lapid, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva and Bong Revilla.
The move followed the European Union’s criticism of China’s actions in the disputed waters, which the European bloc said affected peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
The senators enumerated China’s aggressive movements in the South China Sea dating back to previous administrations, and said “the reclamation and construction undertaken by China within the Philippine EEZ (exclusive economic one) are illegal, [thus] no legitimate claims may emanate from such illegally constructed artificial islands or structures.”
“[Such] blatant disregard of established international law not only has serious ramifications on a rules-based international order but likewise deprives Philippine fishermen of livelihood, prevents the Philippines from fully taking advantage of the resources within its EEZ, causes irreparable damage to the marine environment due to pollution and destruction of coral reefs, and serves to militarize the South China Sea,” they said.
Hontiveros, meanwhile, dared the government to step up efforts to collect from China around P800 billion in damages for its vessels’ illegal fishing activities in the West Philippine Sea.
She said the money that will be paid by China will be a great help to the country’s COVID-19 response.
Hontiveros cited a report from the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute, stating that the Philippines is losing a total of about P200 billion due to China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.
She also cited estimates that the Philippines had been losing around P644 billion worth of fish catch due to the presence of Chinese vessels.
Responding to these criticisms, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the resolution of territorial disputes would take long, adding that only maritime claims, and not yet island claims, were being discussed now.
PH ‘will never give it up’
As Roque made those remarks, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet on Monday that “the Philippines will never give it up,” referring to the Julian Felipe Reef.
Locsin said the Philippines could use the contested feature for other purposes, like building military outposts. “Now that makes sense; we’ll settle this between ourselves but in the meanwhile, we’ll use these features as the owners of them we are; e.g. military outposts,” he said.
“But the dispute is between China and us—until the other side sinks a Philippine vessel. Then it falls under the MDT,” he added, referring to the Mutual Defense Treaty that obliges the Philippines and the United States to defend each other in the event of an attack.
—WITH REPORTS FROM TINA G. SANTOS AND JEROME ANING
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