The Philippines should remain firm against the presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime assets in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), opposition Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said on Tuesday, April 6.
“It’s high time we stand up to China in the same way our ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) neighbors, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, have done so to uphold their nation’s interests — rather than remaining meek and submissive,’’ Pangilinan said in a statement.
‘’We cannot allow China to hold us by the neck. We cannot remain docile while Julian Felipe Reef is being taken from us,” he stressed.
Last month, over 200 Chinese vessels were spotted at the Philippines’ Julian Felipe Reef, which Beijing claims as part of their string of islands in the South China Sea.
The number has declined by national security officials found out that the Chinese vessels were only dispersed in various parts of the WPS and did not leave.
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 WPS.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had also demanded the Chinese vessels to leave the area.
“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,’’ Pangilinan 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,’’ he added.
The Philippines in 2016 won over China after an international tribunal in The Hague ruled that China lacked the legal basis to claim historic rights over the South China Sea, including the WPS, parts of which are covered by the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
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.