House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez has filed a resolution asking Congress to declare July 12 as the National West Philippine Sea Victory Day, in commemoration of the country’s historic win in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague.
“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,” Rodriguez said in filing House Resolution No. 1975.
Likewise, the Cagayan de Oro Representative credited the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino lll for challenging China’s ridiculous claims before the UN arbitral court, which issued its ruling just 12 days after Aquino ended his term.
“Despite the clear victory of the Philippines, China has refused to acknowledge the ruling and has continued to harass Filipino fishermen and to illegally construct structures on the different islands in the WPS,” the solon lamented.
That is why, he said, it is very important for the government to ensure that the country’s landmark legal success in the Hague is kept alive in the hearts and minds of the people “despite others believing that it is a hollow victory.”
“It is in this context that we should celebrate our David against Goliath triumph on July 12 of every year, but we should insist every minute that China should recognize, respect and abide by the ruling,” he said.
The lawmaker stressed it is clear that under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Kalayaan Island group (KIG) and portions of the Spratly islands in the Palawan area and Panatag Shoal off Zambales and Pangasinan are part of the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.
“The WPS is exceptionally biodiverse, and contains numerous species of fish, echinoderms, mangroves, seagrasses, giant clams, and marine turtles, including those considered vulnerable or endangered, and vast coral reefs,” he pointed out.
Rodriguez noted the WPS has a reported annual fish yield of five million tons that sustains coastal communities on the western coasts of Luzon and Palawan.
The maritime asset is also reported to contain up to 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 5.4 billion barrels of oil, an abundant source of energy which could address the energy requirements of the country and lessen its dependence on crude oil imports.
“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,” the lawmaker said.