With latest confrontation in WPS, Isko reiterates ‘fearless’ stance in defending territory
MANILA, Philippines — Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso reiterated on Thursday that he will be “fearless” in fighting for the country’s territory if he is elected president in 2022, amid the latest Chinese intrusion near the Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Moreno said in a statement that he will insist on the Hague ruling in 2016 where the Philippines won, after the arbitral tribunal decided that China’s nine-dash line claim which includes a big portion of the WPS has no historical and legal basis.
“We will be fearless in fighting for what is ours. We will insist on the Hague Ruling. But at the same time as being fearless, we are going to be fair with our discussion and management of the situation on both sides,” Moreno said.
“We will be faithful to our farmers and fisherfolks. Ang mga mangingisda, dapat makapangisda sa loob ng ating teritoryo sa dagat. At iyon ang magaganap: undeterred, peaceful, and productive fishing opportunities under our rules. Filipino fishermen first” he added.
Another measure that he believes would be of help to the country’s cause is the reinforcement of defense agreements with other countries like the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States (US).
“The MDT will be recognized, definitely. Treaties will be recognized. Trade with America, Vietnam, China, and all other nations will continue because the West Philippine Sea issue is far different from our economic and trade issues,” Moreno explained.
“We will take that as an opportunity for us to gain, for the people to gain, for our country to gain. And that includes the Visiting Forces Agreement with United States. In fact, I will reinforce it,” he added.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. confirmed earlier that Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and water cannoned the boats that were in a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre, a ship grounded at the Ayungin shoal.
The incident, which occurred last Tuesday, did not result into any injuries but forced the boats to abort their mission
Ayungin shoal, where BRP Sierra Madre was intentionally grounded to serve as an outpost of the Philippine Navy, is well within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Locsin said that he has spoken to Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing to protest and condemn the incident, reminding them that even public vessels are covered by the MDT.
Earlier too, Malacañang said that the Philippine government would continue to assert its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the EEZ.
In the past, Moreno said that he is open to partnerships with Chinese companies regarding the oil extraction in the WPS — earnings of which will be used to lower electricity rates and strengthen the country’s territorial defense.
But aside from that, he also said that he is in favor of expanding the training exercises between Filipino and American troops, under the Visiting Forces Agreement.
“Palalakihin ko pa ‘yung sakop nila na pagti-trainingan para mas maraming ma-train na Pilipino uniformed personnel. Why not? Especially I need a lot of strategic planning or some materials that protects the shores, all across from Tawi-Tawi to Batanes. O, di ba, bakit ba hindi? eh lalo kung TY. TY na nga lang eh, baka may bonus pa iyon,” he explained.
(We will expand the training ground of our Filipino uniformed personnel. Why not?)
“You’ll never know. Eh kung iiwan nila ‘yung ground to air missile nila, e marunong ang Filipino soldier. O, someday hindi natin kailangang bumili, magka-aksidente diyan, protektado ang bansa natin. Because that is supposed to be the act of the leader. It is always the people. The people, our people, nothing more, nothing less,” he added.
(If they are going to leave their ground-to-air missile, and Filipino soldiers are knowledgeable. Someday we will no longer need to buy, if there will be an accident, our country will be protected.)
This is not the first time in 2021 that China was involved in intrusive activities over the WPS, despite the presence of the arbitral tribunal decision: in March 2021, the Philippine Coast Guard and the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) said that over 220 Chinese ships were spotted in line formation near the Julian Felipe Reef.
The reef is just 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan — well within the country’s EEZ.
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