File resolution criticizing Chinese incursions, chamber approval up
Eleven senators crossed party lines Monday to file a strongly-worded resolution denouncing the illegal activities of China in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EZZ) and other parts of the West Philippine Sea.In filing Senate Resolution 708, principally authored by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, the senators said the continued presence of Chinese vessels in the country’s territories violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.The measure was expected to be signed and passed by the other members of the 24-man Senate, who had yet to receive a physical copy of the resolution since the chamber was not in session on Monday.
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Only a simple majority, or 13 votes, is required to pass a Senate resolution.Those who co-authored the resolution and signed it electronically, were Senators Ralph Recto, Nancy Binay, Richard Gordon, Lito Lapid, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva and Bong Revilla for the majority and Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima, and Drilon for the minority.The resolution supported Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.Locsin on Monday declared that the Philippines will never abandon Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, which it can use as a military outpost, after a spokesperson of China’s mission in the European Union said it belongs to China.While the territorial dispute is between the Philippines in China, Locsin said, the situation would fall under the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States if “the other side sinks a Philippine vessel.”Meanwhile, Hontiveros on Monday renewed her call for China to pay over P800 billion in reparations for her ecological damage of the West Philippine Sea, which can be used for the country’s COVID-19 response.She said the Palace should force its “best friend” China to pay its debt.“This is one sure way to raise funds to address the financial needs of our people. Let us not be dependent on community pantries for their food and help,” Hontiveros said.
Drilon, in an interview with CNN, said: “We must contribute our share in generating public opinion against this unlawful act of the Chinese government. We will file this resolution to express the sentiment of the Senate as a partner of the executive insofar as foreign policy is concerned.”“What China is doing is contrary to the arbitration award and does not promote stability int the region,” he said.In the resolution, the senators said: “China should not be allowed to rewrite or nullify the UNCLOS, which was painstakingly negotiated and ratified by various states, as such blatant disregard of established international law not only has serious ramifications on a rules-based international order but likewise deprives Philippine fishermen of livelihood, prevents the Philippines from fully taking advantage of the resources within its exclusive economic zone, causes irreparable damage to the marine environment due to pollution and destruction of coral reefs, and serves to militarize the South China Sea.”
They added that China’s illegal activities in the WPS threaten the peace and security in this region and the world.The move by the 11 senators came as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) filed a series of diplomatic protests over the continued presence of the Chinese ships within the Philippine EEZ.Notwithstanding the diplomatic protests and the strong public statements made by Locsin and Lorenzana, patrols conducted by the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea on April 11 revealed that an estimated 240 vessels continue to linger in the Philippine EEZ, with 136 Chinese vessels spotted at Burgos Reef, and various other vessels ion December 1982, entered into force in November 1994, and ratified by 167 states and the European Union.”The MDT, signed in August 1951, commits the Philippines and the US to help each other if either of them comes under external armed attack in the Pacific.Over the weekend, the EU criticized China’s latest aggressive actions in the South China Sea, referring to the recent deployment of more than 240 fishing and militia vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef, which is well within the Philippines EEZ.“Tensions in the South China Sea, including the recent presence of large Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, endanger peace and stability in the region,” the EU said in a statement.The EU also reiterated its strong opposition to “any unilateral actions” that could undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order, even as it expressed its commitment to a “secure, free, and open maritime supply routes in the Indo-Pacific” that is in full compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.