LIKE our Southeast Asian neighbors, the Philippines should remain firm against the presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime assets in the West Philippine Sea, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said on Tuesday.
“It’s high time we stand up to China in the same way our ASEAN neighbors, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, have done so to uphold their nation’s interests — rather than remaining meek and submissive (Panahon nang ipakita natin sa China na nanindigan tayo tulad ng ating mga kapit-bayan natin sa ASEAN na Vietnam at Indonesia. Imbes na maging maamo at sunud-sunuran, tinaguyod nila ang interes ng kanilang bayan),” Pangilinan said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday warned of daily diplomatic protests against China for each day that Chinese maritime vessels continue to occupy the West Philippine Sea.
This is following reports that over 200 Chinese vessels have been roaming Philippine territorial waters as of late March 2021. These vessels were first spotted at the Philippines’ Julian Felipe Reef, which Beijing claims as part of their string of islands in the South China Sea.
“Hindi tayo dapat pumayag na hawakan tayo sa leeg ng China. Hindi tayo dapat manatiling sunud-sunuran, tahimik, at walang imik, habang inaagaw na sa atin ang Julian Felipe Reef (We cannot allow China to hold us by the neck. We cannot remain docile while Julian Felipe Reef is being taken from us),” Pangilinan said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier demanded that the Chinese vessels should be on their way out as they have no reason to stay.
Pangilinan backs Lorenzana, calling on China to put an end to its dubious and illegal claim over the Philippines’ sovereign waters.
“We welcome the DFA and the Defense Secretary’s proactive stance on the matter and encourage the government to remain firm against any impingement on our sovereignty — whether on our territorial waters or within our very borders (Welcome sa atin ang maagap na pagtindig ng DFA at ng Defense Secretary sa usapin at sa paghikayat sa gobyerno na manatiling matatag laban sa anumang panghihimasok sa ating teritoryo),” he said.
“Vietnam filed numerous protests against China. Indonesia has taken to strengthening bilateral relations with Japan and other allies to bolster its stand on the contested waters. We should continue to do the same — exhaust all efforts to ensure that our historic win in the Hague prevail (Naghain ang Vietnam ng maraming protesta laban sa China. Pinagtibay naman ng Indonesia ang bilateral relations nila sa Japan at sa iba pang mga kaalyado upang mapalakas ang posisyon nito sa pinag-aagawang teritoryo. Dapat tuloy pa rin natin silang tularan – siguruhing masasagad natin ang lahat ng paraan para matiyak na mananaig ang ating makasaysayang tagumpay sa The Hague),” Pangilinan added.
The Philippines in 2016 scored a major legal triumph over China after an international tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines, concluding that China lacks legal basis to claim historic rights over the West Philippine Sea — parts of which are covered by the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
Negotiations are currently ongoing for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea between the ASEAN and China.
The Code of Conduct is expected to resolve conflicts for the contested waters, and is targeted to be finalized this year.