‘ABHORRENT’ | Philippine senators blast China over boat collisions in South China Sea

(NEWS 5) Senators have condemned China after Beijing’s coast guard vessels was accused of intentionally colliding with Philippine vessels in the South China Sea.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri urged the China Coast Guard (CCG) to comply with international laws governing safe maritime travel and recognize the Philippines’ freedom of navigation in its own exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“I am one with peace-loving Filipinos in strongly condemning this latest abhorrent actions of the China Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militia that put in danger the lives of our brave countrymen who were on a routine resupply mission to our troops in Ayungin Shoal,” Zubiri said in a statement Sunday.

The Philippines accused Chinese coast guard and maritime militia vessels of deliberately colliding with Philippine vessels while they were on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre, a rusting Navy transport vessel that ran aground the Second Thomas Shoal.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who is also the chairman of the national defense committee in the Upper House, described Beijing’s recent actions as “reckless and hostile.”

“Dapat pag-aralan na ng mga kinauukulan ang susunod na hakbang. This is a violation of our sovereign rights and an assault on our maritime personnel; it is completely unacceptable. Will a mere diplomatic protest still suffice?” Estrada said.

Another senator, Grace Poe, raised grave concern that the incident could “heighten the tension not only between Philippines and China, but could also be a potential flashpoint in the region.”

Senator Francis Tolentino, in a separate statement, called for an investigation into the incident under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the Code for Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents of the International Maritime Organization.

For her part, Senator Risa Hontiveros maintained the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has the right to navigate 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.

Tensions have been high between the Philippines and China over the Second Thomas Shoal or Ayungin Shoal, located 105 nautical miles west of Palawan, as Beijing harassed vessels that were delivering supplies to Filipino soldiers stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre.

The Senate, in a resolution adopted in August, condemned China’s coercive actions in the West Philippine Sea and urged the national government to take action to assert its maritime claims, including bringing up the issue before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). – By Clarist Zablan