Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Saturday called for calm amid the heightened aggression of China in the West Philippines Sea.
“Ang una kong panawagan ay kumalma ang lahat. Kalma lang lahat. Dapat ay hindi natin pataasin ang tensyon, kasi mataas na nga, tensyonado na nga yung lugar, eh (My first appeal if for all to be calm. Everyone should stay calm. We should not be adding up to the tension because the area is already full of tension),” Pimentel, chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, said over radio DWIZ, April 10.
The senator issued the call amid China’s refusal to heed the Philippines’ demand for the recall of Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef and other parts of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
On Thursday, April 8, the Chinese Coast Guard deployed missile attack crafts to chase a Filipino vessel that was ferrying members of the ABS-CBN News across the various reefs and shoals in the WPS.
In calling for calm, Pimentel maintained that the foreign vessels are not prohibited from sailing within the country’s EEZ.
He, however, said that foreigners should not be benefitting from the resources from the waters in the EEZ since, according to international treaties, the Philippines has the sole right to these resources.
“Bawal nilang pakinabangan ang mga resources dyan, economically, /yong pagkakitaan nila kasi exclusive na ‘yan para sa coastal state, ang coastal state pagdating sa lugar na yan ay Pilipinas (They should not benefit from the resources there, economically, because that is exclusive for the coastal state, and the coastal state when it comes to that area is the Philippines),” he said.
He said the government should conduct patrols to determine China’s activities in the WPS, even as military and defense officials already verified that structures have already been built in some of the country’s reefs.
“The mere fact na may barko ng bang bansa sa EEZ natin, eh hindi nman po ka-alarma alarma ‘yon…Ang bawal lang na meron silang gawin doon lalo na kung economic exploitation na ng mga waters kasi sa atin dapat ‘yon (The mere fact that there are vessels within our EEZ is not a cause for alarm. What’s prohibited is for them to conduct any activities there especially if there is economic exploitation already because the resources should be ours),” Pimentel said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Saturday that authorities are looking into the latest aggression of Chinese vessels in the WPS.
China insists that the area is part of its sweeping claim in the South China Sea, which has already been invalidated in 2016 by the arbitral tribunal in The Hague.