Amid the reported Chinese militarization of the artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, Senator Joel Villanueva on Wednesday called on the government and the public to insist on the country’s rightful claim over the West Philippine Sea.
Villanueva said that since the decision of an international tribunal has no enforcement apparatus, it would be best for the government and its citizens to fully exercise its sovereign rights over its Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea.
“We implore the government and the entirety of the Filipino nation to continuously uphold and express our claim of rightful ownership over the West Philippine Sea. Through concrete solidarity in expressing our rightful claim, we can continue fully exercising our sovereign rights,” Villanueva said.
The senator also noted that the Philippines cannot rely solely on ‘good faith’ in ensuring that China won’t occupy the islands in the West Philippine Sea despite its ongoing buildup in the area.
A recent report showed aerial photographs of construction of runways, military facilities, and stationary weapons on Kagitingan Reef, Calderon, Burgos, Mabini, Panganiban, Zamora, and McKennan reefs.
China’s militarization has been ongoing despite the ruling of UN-backed tribunal favoring the Philippines’ claim to exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.
The international court also ruled that China’s “nine-dash line” is invalid and that Beijing violated Manila’s sovereign rights to fish and explore for minerals in the disputed territory.
In December last year, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque downplayed the reported Chinese construction in the West Philippine Sea saying that the Philippines will still rely on China’s good faith despite Beijing’s expansion of its man-made islands to boost their defense capabilities.
“It will not be enough to rely solely on ‘good faith’ on the part of China. We have to consistently express and stand by our sovereign rights,” Villanueva said.
“We sincerely urge everyone to champion our claim to the West Philippine Sea. Our victories in international arbitration have proven the validity of our claims to the area. We should maximize these gains to solve the issues in the West Philippine Sea,” the senator said.
Meanwhile, Liberal Party (LP) Vice President on External Affairs Erin Tanada questioned the President’s integrity on his promise during the 2016 election campaign wherein he vowed to defend the country in the controversial West Philippine Sea issue.
“Where now is your promise, President Duterte, that you would defend the Philippines and the interest of Filipinos? Now the Filipino people need your courage. Are we just going to bow down to every order of China? Even to the extent that the Philippines’ honor is being desecrated?”
Tanada issued the statement following reports saying that China is almost done with its continuous militarization in the West Philippine Sea.
He said this was one of the reasons why it has always been hard to explain to other Filipinos the importance of freedom in one’s country.
“Even before, it is hard to explain to a fellow Filipino the importance of genuine freedom. Now, we are again explaining to our countrymen that the intrusion of China is wrong.”
He said that the bullying against our Filipino fishermen who have the rights to fish in the sea is wrong and that militarization of the islets about 1,000 kilometers away from the tip of Manila is also wrong.