Filipinos have legal right to be in West Philippines Sea — solon

Published April 16, 2021, 7:29 PM

by Mario Casayuran

“It is our right to be there in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).’’       

Muntinlupa Representative Rufino Biazon stressed this on Friday, April 16, as the Philippines awaits China’s response to pull out all its naval and militia ships at the West Philippine Sea (WPS).       

Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon. (Photo from Biazon’s Facebook account/ MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

The vice chairman of the House national defense committee also said it is time for the country to once again participate in navy drills conducted by the United States as a way to make up for the imbalance of military power between China and the Philippines.         

Biazon said he is confident that there are other allies who would be willing to help the Philippines on issues in the West Philippine Sea and even the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.         

“We can see that for a while there seemed to be a cooling off of the relationship between the Philippines and the US, but I think it’s time for us to engage our longtime allies and even possibly forge new ones. We have the international community sympathetic to our cause, and I think it’s the next step that we should be taking to make up for the imbalance of military power between China and the Philippines,” Biazon said in a television interview.         

“Obviously, militarily, if we compare the two, the Philippines is way behind. But we have the international community on our side, both on the legal front through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the military front through the Department of National Defense (DND),” he added.         

“I feel that we are stepping up right now to tell the world that we are concerned, but we have some sort of handicap militarily, that is why engaging in these alliances and concerned parties would be a boost,” he further said.         

Biazon urged the Philippines to also pursue diplomatic actions on the presence of Chinese ships in the Julian Felipe reef and China’s harassment of a Filipino vessel ferrying local media in the West Philippine Sea, as well as continue with maritime patrols in the country’s EEZ.         

“I’m happy that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has summoned the Chinese ambassador because that was one of the things that I was offering as an option. And we must pursue this, of course, in a peaceful means and in accordance with what the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea) provides,” he added.         

“But beyond that, I think the country should pursue and proceed with maritime patrols in the area,” he maintained.         

Biazon warned that because of their donation of vaccines to the Philippines, China might try to influence decisions by the Philippine with regard to the issues on the West Philippine Sea.         

“Remember when there was talk about donations of vaccines going to the Armed Forces, I expressed my apprehension on that because we cannot set aside our concern on the West Philippine Sea,” he said.         

“I think we should just proceed treating these two issues as parallel but that’s just my opinion. We engaged China in securing vaccines whether it’s by donation or procurement, and it is better if it’s by procurement because it’s just a business transaction, he said.         

“But, of course, we should still maintain our position by asserting our rights over our Exclusive Economic Zone. I am confident that there are other allies who would be willing to help us on both issues on West Philippine sea and even the pandemic response,” he added.