Hontiveros urges DENR to start naming features of Kalayaan Island Group

Published May 31, 2021, 10:28 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to start naming and identifying the rocks and features of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).

Hontiveros said such move will strengthen and assert the Philippines’ claim in the West Philippine Sea.

“The features we occupy in the KIG remain unnamed. Mapapalakas ang paggiit natin ng ating karapatan sa WPS kung malinaw ang pangalan, katangian, at sakop ng mga inaangkin nating teritoryo (We can only strengthen our claims in the WPS if we can clearly define, name, and mark the places that are part of our territory),” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“Udyukin na ng DENR ang (The DENR should push the) National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) para simulan ang pag-papangalan ng mga ito (to start the naming process),”the senator said.

The Philippines, she noted, currently has no law that names the features in the KIG, a nine-islet chain that the country claims as part of its territory. Under international law, the senator stressed maritime and territorial claims arise from named and defined pieces of land or rock.

The lawmaker said naming features in the KIG is more important now in light of China’s lengthy stay and presence in the WPS.

“Identity is key. Naming our land and rocks in the KIG will help us consolidate our ownership of the WPS,” she said.

She also lauded the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for firing off another diplomatic protest over the incessant illegal activities of Chinese vessels in Pag-asa Island.

Pag-asa Island, found 480 km west of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, is the largest islet in the KIG.

“Establishing baselines in the KIG that can identify our territorial seas bolsters our complete sovereignty over these seas. We must also accelerate the upgrading of our facilities in the KIG and start building a permanent base,” she pointed out.

“If we stay passive in the face of China’s aggression, China will only continue to take what is ours,” she further stressed.

“Ipakita natin sa Tsina na hindi tayo aatras sa anumang sulok ng laban na ito. Patatagin natin ang depensa ng Pilipinas— sa papeles man o sa laot. Atin ang ‘Pinas, (Let’s show China that we are not backing off whatever kind of fight this is. We should strengthen the country’s defense—whether on paper or on the sea. The Philippines is ours),” Hontiveros reiterated.