Senate President Vicente Sotto III lauded on Tuesday the United States’ rejection of China’s “unlawful” claims in the South China Sea.
Echoing the statement of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sotto said the Philippines should “actively assert” its sovereign authority over its territorial resources.
“We should never give up the fight for what is legally ours. We should never cower in fear from the harassment and political intimidation that foreign governments impose on us. We should stand firm and prove that we as a nation remain united in our common desire to claim and protect our sovereign jurisdiction,” said Sotto.
“What is unlawful can never be made lawful by the whims and caprices of a foreign power which treats the entire South China Sea as its territory. We shall never and should not shut up into giving up our offshore treasures. Let us continue to hold hands in our fight for our sovereign rights,” he added.
Sotto’s pronouncement was backed by fellow Senator Risa Hontiveros who said: “Hindi pwedeng isaisantabi ang ating soberanya at kalayaan (We should not set aside our sovereignty and freedom).”
“China should respect our victory at The Hague, pay for the damage in the West Philippine Sea, and get out of our waters and off our islands,” she added.
Pompeo, in a statement on July 13, backed the Philippines’ jurisdiction over the Mischief Reef or the Panganiban Reef, and the Second Thomas or the Ayungin Shoal, citing the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision in July 12, 2016 scrapping China’s “nine-dashed line” claim over the area.
The US state secretary also slammed China’s aggressive claims in the waters off Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.
“Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with ‘might makes right,'” Pompeo said.
In retaliation, China also issued a statement on Tuesday accusing the US of disregarding the efforts of China and ASEAN countries to forge “peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
It also accused the US of deliberately “distorting the facts and international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
China refused to recognize the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s 2016 ruling, saying its “territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea will under no circumstances be affected by this award.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. had called on China to comply with the tribunal award which he described as “non-negotiable.”