What is ours is ours — Robredo

Published June 11, 2018, 8:15 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Raymund Antonio

Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo called on the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to fight for Filipinos and the country’s welfare amid the continuous intrusion of China in Philippine waters.

(photo sourced from VP Leni Robredo's facebook page)
(photo sourced from VP Leni Robredo’s facebook page)

Robredo, a former housing chief in the Duterte Cabinet, said that asserting the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea goes beyond the welfare of Filipino fishermen at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

“It is about every living Filipino and the generations to come. It is about our nation’s independence, security, and sovereignty,” Robredo said.

This was her message on the eve of the country’s Independence Day celebration, the same day she attended the forum on West Philippine Sea held in the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City.

“We must all remember that what is being stolen from our country is not just a group of atolls and reefs, far removed from the welfare of every Filipino in the mainland,” Robredo said.

“What is being stolen is our comfort in knowing that we can sleep soundly at night, certain that we are secure from external threats and weapons of war. What is being stolen are our resources, electricity, food, and jobs for our people,” she added.

The Vice President emphasized the 1987 Constitution mandates the government to defend what lawfully belongs to Filipinos.

She even called “ironic” that the government continues to call its waters the “disputed” West Philippine Sea despite the Hague tribunal ruling in 2016 that affirmed Philippines’ rights.

“We soften our stance on the West Philippine Sea to avoid conflict, but the conflict we seem to be scared of is already at our doors. Our fisherfolk are physically restrained with guns, ammunition, ships, and intimidation, to prevent them from fishing in waters that have already been affirmed as part of our Philippine territory,” said Robredo.

This was her strongest speech yet regarding China’s militarization of the West Philippine Sea.

The forum, timed for the 120th Independence Day of the Philippines, aimed to shed light on the recent issues involving the West Philippine Sea.

It came in the wake of the recent incident at Panatag Shoal, where the China Coast Guard was caught on video taking the fish catch of Filipino fishermen.

The fishermen have reported also being blocked by Chinese vessels from approaching the rich fishing grounds.

The Vice President made a strong stand against China’s military presence in WPS, which she claimed as the “most serious external threat” to the country since World War 2.

“If China successfully solidifies its presence within its nine-dash line, the Philippines will lose effective control over its exclusive economic zone, which is larger than the land area of our country,” she said.

Speaking at the forum, Robredo urged the nation to be vigilant and the people should ensure they don’t “trade away” their sovereign rights with any country.

“We cannot hand over our sovereignty just because we are afraid. We must assert our claim on the West Philippine Sea, but that means each of us must stand united so that we can fight for what is ours,” she said.