Marcos must assert PH’s sovereign, legal rights in WPS in state visit to China—Hontiveros

Senator Risa Hontiveros said she expects President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to assert the Philippines’ sovereign and legal rights in the West Philippine Sea in his upcoing state visit to China in January 2023.

“I expect nothing less than a firm assertion of our sovereign and legal rights in the West Philippine Sea. Everything that is to be discussed should be in the context of China’s incessant incursions in our territories; therefore, every prospective deal or engagement should be premised upon China’s recognition of the Philippine’s rightful ownership of the WPS,” Hontiveros said in a statement on Wednesday, December 21.

“I would want for President Marcos to make it clear to President Xi Jinping what he had committed during his SONA: not to give up a square inch of Philippine territory,” the senator reiterated.

Even during the previous administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the lawmaker said she had always reminded the Chief Executive to stand up to China, and to push back against the gradual degradation of the country’s sovereignty.

Hontiveros had also repeatedly called on the administration to resist tactics that threaten peace and stability in the ASEAN region.

“I am pleased that finally, under this administration, all senators have recently unanimously supported a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that condemns the continued intimidation, threats, and harassment of Chinese vessels toward Philippine boats and personnel,” she said.

Hontiveros is referring to the resolution the Senate had adopted expressing their “disgust” over China’s maneuvers in the South China Sea.

The resolution stemmed from Sen. Francis Tolentino’s privilege speech where he condemned and showed how a Chinese vessel cut the towing line of a Philippine Navy rubber boat which retrieved the debris from a Chinese Long March 5B rocket that fell within the Pag-asa Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

She said President Marcos should also be well advised to study and understand this Senate resolution so as to make an unyielding stand, “as he should, for the sake of our country and the Filipino people.”

But at the same time, she said the President should balance Philippine interest in terms of its economic relationship with China.

“The Philippines should keep asserting our rights even while simultaneously strengthening bilateral economic and trade cooperation with China,” she said.

“Government must always be reminded, however, that economic gains from our relationship with China should not supersede our duty to protect our sovereignty and uphold our national interest,” added the senator.

She also said China should first recognize and respect the 2016 Hague arbitral ruling that ruled in favor of the Philippines, that invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash claim that covers nearly the entire South China Sea, before the government entertains any possible joint exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea.

“China should first recognize and respect the 2016 Arbitral Ruling. Only then could both parties start to truthfully and faithfully discuss a joint exploration,” Hontiveros stressed.