House Committee on Appropriations chairman ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap has a “chill” attitude when it comes to the issue of Chinese encroachment on Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
This is because Yap believes that, once all is said and done, all of the supposedly costly and high-tech structures that China has built within the disputed territory will end up belonging to the Philippines.
“Huwag po tayong matakot kung magtayo sila ng structure dahil bandang huli, kapag na enforce po natin ang ating karapatan, dumating na po ‘yung day of reckoning, eh ‘yung structure na ‘yun mapupunta rin naman po sa atin ‘yun (Let’s not be afraid if they construct structures because in the end, once we have enforced our rights and the day of reckoning had arrived, that structure will become ours),” he said during the budget plenary debates Monday.
At that time, Makabayan member, Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, was interpellating Yap on the proposed P8.238-billion budget of Malacañang for next year.
Brosas said she had received confirmation from the Department of National Defense (DND) earlier during the panel-level budget briefings that Beijing’s reclamation activities in the WPS haven’t abated even with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dito po tayo nagwo-worry, kasi kailangan po natin maipagtanggol ‘yung bansa natin, ‘yung soberanya natin. Kahit po sa panahon ng COVID, ipinagtatanggol natin ang bayan natin sa mga external na problema. Hindi po dapat masamantala ang panahon na ito para mas lalong makamkam or makakuha ng ating mga islands o teritoryo ang ibang bansa (This worries us because we need to defend our country, our sovereignty. Even during the time of COVID, the country must be defended from external threats. Other countries must not take advantage of this pandemic to our islands and territory),” she said.
Regional giant China has a blanket claim over the entire South China Sea where the WPS is located. This has resulted in long-standing territorial disputes at-sea involving features within the Philippines’ own 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Yap assured Brosas that the Philippine government was indeed acting on the WPS issue, but declined to give specifics so as not to preempt such actions.
“Ihalimbawa na lang po natin sa isang lupa na may dispute. At ‘yung mas malaking puwersa, mayroon siyang military na pinalibutan ang ating lupa. Nagtayo po sila ng structure sa ating lupa kung saan tayo ay may claim (Let’s just give as an example a dispute between two parties involving land. The bigger party has tapped the military to encircle the land. They’ve built structures on our land which we have a claim on).”
“Definitely po kapag tayo ay nanalo sa korte, ‘yung kanilang itinayo ay mapupunta po sa atin ‘yun dahil atin po ang lupa (Once we win our case in the court, the structures they’ve built will definitely go to us because we own the land),” Yap said.
The Appropriations panel chairman didn’t specify what event would constitute the “day of reckoning” or court victory that he mentioned.
In July 2016, the United Nations (UN)-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague sided with Manila in the arbitration case it filed against China regarding its expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea. The ruling invalidated Beijing’s controversial nine-dash claim.
The case – filed during the time of President Benigno S. Aquino III – and the ensuing arbitral award have never been recognized by China.