(MALAYA) THE Senate yesterday adopted a resolution “strongly condemning” the continued harassment of Filipino fishermen” and “persistent incursions in the West Philippine Sea” by the China Coast Guard and militia vessels, and urging government to take action to assert the country’s rights to its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
Senate Resolution No. 718 was unanimously adopted by the senators after they held a closed-door meeting on Monday afternoon with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, and Armed Forces chief Romeo Brawner.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Senate Resolution (SR) 718 “strengthened” the original resolutions filed by him (SR No. 707) and deputy minority leader Risa Hontiveros (SR No. 659).
Hontiveros’ resolution asks the Department of Foreign Affairs to sponsor a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly asking China to respect the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration which invalidated China’s massive claim in the South China Sea. China does not recognize the ruling and has been insisting on bilateral talks with other claimant countries – Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Hontiveros’ resolution also asks for a stop to Chinese harassment of Filipino vessels in the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The resolution was sponsored by Hontiveros on Tuesday last week, with Zubiri and Senators Raffy Tulfo and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada fully supporting it. But Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano asked that the adoption be deferred to give senators more time to discuss the matter among themselves. He said adopting it abruptly can have more adverse on the country’s victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in the Netherlands.
Cayetano said President Marcos should be first informed of such resolution because the latter is the chief architect of the country’s foreign policy.
‘NOT WATERED DOWN’
Zubiri, after SR 718 was adopted, said “we never watered down the resolution that we filed.”
“We actually strengthened the first resolution that we initially filed with Sen. Risa. I think what happened here is we strengthened the position of government. Now we gave them several options to choose on how to deal with our neighbors in the North,” he said.
Under SR 718, the DFA “is expected” to hold continuous dialogues with China “to push for recognition and respect of the Philippines sovereign rights over its EEZ and pursue the formulation of the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea based on international law and the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)…”
If the efforts are continuously ignored by China, the resolution said the DFA “is further urged” to take the following courses of action — bring China’s harassment and incursions to international attention and its continued violation of the Hague ruling and the UNCLOS, utilize international fora to rally multilateral support for the enforcement of the Hague Ruling and raise awareness on the real situation in the West Philippine Sea;
engage like-minded countries to call on China to respect the Hague Ruling and the UNCLOS; file a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly to call for a cessation of all activities that harass Philippine vessels and violate the country’s established rights in the West Philippine Sea; and pursue such other diplomatic modes as the DFA may deem appropriate.
Cayetano said the adopted resolution is a “stronger proposal” since it gave the Philippine government more options rather than just bring the issue before the UNGA alone.
Zubiri said the options were reached after “proper consensus and consultations among our colleagues.”
“We stand by each other and for the country regardless of political color, regardless of where we come from. We are together when it comes to the sovereignty of the country,” Zubiri said.
Last month, 16 member-countries of the European Union issued a joint statement reaffirming their support for the 2016 arbitral ruling which recognizes the country’s rights over the WPS.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration came out with a decision that said China has no legal basis to its historical and sweeping claims to resources in sea areas failing within its nine-dash line.
Rather than comply, China has instead heightened its incursions and harassment of Philippine vessels within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), aside from putting up structures in various parts of the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines has filed dozens of diplomatic protests against China — these were ignored — and continued to shoo away Filipino fishermen by blocking their way to the WPS.
Earlier this year, the DFA said the China coast guard aimed a military-grade laser at a Philippine Coast Guard vessel, while in June and July, China increased its presence in Recto Bank and Scarborough Shoal which are inside the Philippines’ 200-nautcial miles EEZ.
China has consistently tried to block resupply mission to the marooned BRP Sierra Madre in the Second Thomas Shoal, which serves as the Philippine military outpost in the area.