More intelligence funds sought after latest Ayungin water cannon incident

(PHILSTAR) MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers are urging Congress to promptly approve increased funding for agencies responsible for safeguarding the West Philippine Sea, especially in the wake of China’s recent provocative actions.

China Coast Guard vessel 5203 reportedly blasted a boat carrying provisions to Filipino soldiers stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal last Friday, endangering lives in the process.

“This incident should push Congress to finally approve a higher budget for the intelligence funds for agencies that defend our territories. When our frontliners in the West Philippine Sea become stronger, so will our national security,” said Sen. Risa Hontiveros in a statement on Saturday in a mix of Filipino and English.

“We must also upgrade the capabilities of our Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy to maneuver past the Chinese blockade of our troops on Ayungin Shoal. Chinese use of force in the Philippines’ own [exclusive economic zone] is contrary to international law,” she added.

China on Friday demanded the Philippines to “stop infringing on its sovereignty” after it took “control measures” against Philippine boats. This move occurred despite Ayungin Shoal being well within Manila’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Hage-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim on almost the entire South China Sea, ruling in favor of the Philippines. The Asian giant however continues to disregard the arbitral ruling.

The Philippines had earlier lodged a diplomatic protest against China regarding the incident.

“China continues to assert that our seas are theirs. An abuser and gaslighter. We, in government, must double down on our efforts to educate our public and campaign for the one and only truth: the West Philippine Sea is ours,” Hontiveros said.

The House Committee on Appropriations earlier scrapped the controversial confidential funds of the Office of the Vice President, Department of Education, etc. in an attempt to rechannel around P1.23 billion for agencies in charge of protecting the West Philippine Sea in 2024.

UN resolution sought

Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said that the government should seriously consider heeding the adopted Senate Resolution No. 79.

The measure recommends filing a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly to call for the end of all activities that harass Philippine vessels and violate established rights in the West Philippine Sea.

“In a show of solidarity, my colleagues and I crossed party lines in unanimously passing this resolution which calls out China for its repeated incursions in the WPS and incessant harassment of Filipino fishermen, patrol vessels, and resupply mission teams,” Estrada said on Saturday.

“Recent developments involving China’s unlawful acts and increasing aggression against our vessels are leaving us with no other recourse but to take appropriate action in asserting and securing our sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zone,” he added.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez earlier said that legislature aims to increasedefense allocation in the 2024 national budget to strengthen the country’s capability to secure the West Philippine Sea.

The CCG last August also utilized water cannons against Philippine vessels delivering provisions to the military outpost in Ayungin Shoal.