Remove vessels in WPS, Pacquiao tells China

Published May 1, 2021, 9:19 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao on Friday, April 30, said he wrote to China about the presence of Chinese fishing vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao during the Senate’s plenary session on March 3, 2021. (Senate PRIB/Albert Calvelo)

The letter, addressed to Beijing’s Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian, had asked China to immediately withdraw its vessels in the area.

The boxing icon-turned-politician issued a statement to deny claims that he refused to sign the Senate Resolution No. 708 expressing the sentiments of 11 senators “condemning the activities of the People’s Republic of China in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and other parts of the West Philippine Sea.” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon initiated the measure.

Pacquiao said did not see the need to sign the resolution of his fellow senators since he already wrote to China last April 10.

“Hindi naman na-media yung sulat ko sa Chinese Ambassador dahil personal letter ko ‘yon (The letter to the Chinese ambassador was not disclosed to media because it is my personal letter). Two weeks after, Senator Drilon passed a resolution of the same nature which I did not sign because I already had a letter pending before the Chinese Ambassador here,” he explained.

In his letter, Pacquiao expressed his “deep” concern over recent reports that at least 220 Chinese vessels remain in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef.

“The continuing presence of Chinese ships at the said reef, which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, only creates tension and harbors divisiveness in our region and evidently destabilizing to the international rule of law,” he said.

“In line with this, we reiterate our call to your government to promptly withdraw these vessels from our territory. We demand nothing less than for your country to respect our sovereignty,” he added.

Pacquiao told the Chinese government in his letter that instead of creating animosity with its neighbors, it should behave as a “unifying figure of regional solidarity.”

“Now is the opportune time for China to be a unifying figure of regional solidarity. Our governments must instead work together towards creating lasting peace and cooperation in the whole Asia-Pacific region, especially during these trying times brought about by the pandemic,” Pacquaio said.