Congressmen underscore significance of July 12 in country's West Philippine Sea claim

Published July 12, 2021, 3:53 PM

by Ben Rosario

While majority of their House of Representatives colleagues appeared to have ignored the significance of July 12, three congressmen didn’t let the day pass by without underscoring the fact that this is the date Philippines won against superpower China an arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

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Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez (1st District, Cagayan de Oro City); Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Partylist) and Rep. Manuel Cabochan III (Magdalo Partylist) on Monday, July 12 issued separate press statements reminding Filipinos that on July 12, 2016, The Hague Arbitral Tribunal ruled that China’s historic claim over the WPS is but a piece of paper.

It was the Philippine government, then headed by the late Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, that brought the issue before the panel, thus, earning both a favorable ruling on its WPS claim and the international community’s respect.

“Because of the rich natural resources in the West Philippine Sea, China has made untenable claims of indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea based on its so-called ‘nine-dash line’ that encroaches on 80 percent of the Philippines’ EEZ in the WPS,” Rodriguez noted.

But the Arbitral Tribunal thumbed down China’s claim.

Rodriguez has filed House Resolution No. 1975 last July 7, 2021 urging Congress to declare July 12 of every year as National West Philippine Sea Victory Day.

“This declaration will celebrate our government’s July 12, 2016 triumph before the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration, which upheld our country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, much of which our frenemy China is illegally claiming as part of its territory,” said Rodriguez.

` Biazon joined “patriotic Filipinos” who view the arbitral ruling as a “victory for the Philippines.”

“I hope that we will consistently uphold this arbitration ruling and for administrations, now and in the future, to pursue strengthening the Philippine position on the matter as well as develop our capability to assert our rights over the areas covered by the ruling. We owe it to the future generations of Filipinos,” Biazon said.

Cabochan lamented that the Duterte administration has failed to take advantage of the Arbitral Ruling to insist on China that its claim over WPS is frowned upon by the international community.

“There has been a lack of recognition, especially from the President, on the merits and power of the Philippines’ win in the Hague on our maritime claims. This attitude of the administration has squandered many opportunities to strengthen our claims. Since 2016, China has been more aggressive knowing that the President would not even buck,” Cabochan said.

“The administration should strongly invoke the arbitration win and should be reflected in its policies and rhetoric. Mayroon tayong bala. Ang problema ay hindi naman ginagamit,” Cabochan added.

The Magdalo partylist lawmaker noted that instead of asserting his country’s arbitral win, Duterte downplayed the event by describing the decision as just “a piece of paper “ that can be easily thrown to the trash bin.

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“The West Philippine Sea arbitration win should be etched in our history through the proposed WPS Victory Day. The arbitration ruling is a huge win for a small nation like ours which chose to stand against a big nation like China,” Cabochan pointed out.

Zarate also decried the Duterte administration for seemingly ignoring the arbitral win.

“Duterte administration gravely squandered the gains in the country’s historic win before the Permanent Court of Arbitration because of its vassal-like pivot to China policy these past five years,” said Zarate.

He added: “Our lost in terms of of marine and other resources may possibly be calculated in terms of pesos but the long-term damage in terms of our sovereignty is clearly incalculable.” “China has not only fenced off Scarborough shoal, harassed our fishermen, claimed and militarized our islands but they have trampled on our sovereignty time and again for the past five years, almost without a whimper of opposition from the Duterte administration,” said opposition lawmaker stated.

 
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