Lawmakers react to PH-China collision, urge in-depth investigation

(GMA NEWS) Lawmakers on Sunday condemned the China Coast Guard’s (CCG) attempt to thwart an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) resupply mission that resulted in a collision in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a statement, Senator Jinggoy Estrada said the CCG’s actions not only violated maritime norms and international law but also posed a threat to the safety and security of the region.

“Aksidente man o hindi, patunay ito ng kawalan ng respeto sa atin at sa buhay ng ating mga kababayan,” the lawmaker said.

(Whether it was an accident or not, this is proof of their lack of respect for us and the lives of our countrymen.)

Estrada urged the government to study its next steps as China’s actions violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights and were an assault on Filipino maritime personnel.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Tolentino, chairperson of the Senate Special Committee on Philippine Maritime and Amiralty Zones, said the incident proved China’s disregard for international law and basic maritime safety.

Tolentino also urged for an in-depth investigation under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Maritime Organization’s Code for Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, emphasized that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) had every right to be in the West Philippine Sea.

“Walang karapatan ang Tsina na itaboy ang ating mga tropa sa ating karagatan. At mas lalong wala silang karapatan na saktan at banggain ang Pilipinong barkong tanging gumagawa lang ng kanyang trabaho sa sarili nating teritoryo,” she said.

(China had no right to expel our troops from our waters. And even more so they have no right to hurt and collide with the Filipino ship that is only doing its job in our territory.)

“Sila ang nanadya, nambabanta, at nang-aalipusta, kaya sila ang dapat managot,” she added.

(They are the ones who acted deliberately, threateningly, and insultingly, so they are the ones who must be held to account.)

Senate President Juan Miguel Zuburi, meanwhile, acknowledged the courage and restraint of the PCG and AFP in continuing their resupply missions despite the disruptions.

“Our freedom of navigation in our own exclusive economic zone within our own continental shelf should be recognized and upheld,” Zubiri noted.

He also called for an increase in the budget for the PCG and AFP to better capacitate them in safeguarding our exclusive economic zones from illegal foreign intrusions.

House Deputy Minority leader and ACT Teachers party-list Representative France Castro similarly condemned China’s escalating aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea.

“Sumusobra na talaga ang pagiging agresibo ng Tsina sa WPS at mukhang mas lalala pa ito sa mga susunod na araw kung walang ‘decisive action’ tulad ng muling pagsasampa ng kaso sa Tsina o paglalatag ng ginagawa nila sa UN General Assembly at pagtutulak ng resolution ng UNGA laban dito,” said Castro.

(China is becoming more aggressive in the WPS and it looks like this will grow worse in the next few days if there won’t be any ‘decisive action’ such as filing of charges against China or bringing the matter before the UN General Assembly and pushing for the passage of a resolution of UNGA condemning this.)

While China may not be forced by the UNGA to abide by a tribunal decision, Castro said such a resolution could form part of a multi-pronged pro-active approach to encourage China to seriously agree to a peaceful settlement of the dispute.  

“Just the filing of such a joint resolution and gaining a substantial number of supportive State-Parties, will definitely discourage aggressive actions from China to flout the PCA [Permanent Court of Arbitration] ruling,” added the solon.

On Sunday, a CCG vessel collided with an AFP-contracted boat going to the Ayungin Shoal for a resupply mission, said the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS).

The incident occurred at around 6:04 a.m., when the “dangerous blocking maneuvers” of CCG vessel 5203 caused the collision with the AFP-contracted indigenous resupply boat Unaiza May 2 (UM2) approximately 13.5 nautical miles east northeast of the BRP Sierra Madre.

During the same RORE mission, the NTF-WPS said PCG vessel MRRV 4409’s port side was also “bumped” by Chinese maritime militia vessel 00003 (CMMV 00003) while it was lying approximately 6.4NM northeast of Ayungin Shoal.

The CCG said on Sunday it “lawfully” blocked Philippine vessels transporting “illegal construction materials” to a warship at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Philippines said the responsibility for the collision laid entirely on the Philippine side.

Ayungin Shoal sits just 194 kilometers off Palawan province and is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It is where the BRP Sierra Madre is anchored since 1999. — DVM/KG, GMA Integrated news