The Senate of the Philippines on Wednesday (02 August 2023) strongly condemned the continued harassment of Filipino fishermen and the persistent incursions in the West Philippine Sea as they urge the Philippine government to take appropriate action in asserting and securing the country’s sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Crossing party lines, the 24-member Senate adopted Resolution No. 718 prodding the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to bring China’s harassment of Filipino fishermen in the Philippine EEZ and its continued violation of the landmark July 12, 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration to international attention.
All members of the Senate were made co-authors of the resolution.
“We came out with a strong consensus yesterday (Tuesday) after discussions with the West Philippine Sea task force, together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff [Gen. Romeo] Brawner, [Jr.] and DFA Sec. [Enrique] Manalo. We never watered down the resolutions that we filed. We actually strengthened the resolutions that we filed… We strengthened the position of the government. Now, we gave them several options to choose on how to deal with our neighbors in the north,” Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri, co-sponsor of the resolution, pointed out.
“The beauty of this is with proper consensus and consultations among our colleagues, we come out unanimous with these options. We stand by each other and for the country regardless of political color, regardless of where we come from. We are together when it comes to the sovereignty of the country,” he said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, co-sponsor of the measure, thanked her colleagues for the concerted effort to not only make the WPS issue a part of their national conversation but also to ensure that the government takes the necessary steps to consolidate global support over the 2016 The Hague ruling.
“This bipartisan effort tells the Filipino people that when it comes to matters of national sovereignty, we will never be bullied into submission,” Hontiveros stressed.
In a nutshell, the Senate wants the DFA to continue holding dialogues with the Chinese government in pushing for recognition and respect of the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its EEZ and in pursuing the formulation of the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea based on international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Furthermore, the Senate laid down several courses of action for the DFA in addressing the harassment of Filipino fishermen, Philippine Navy, and the Philippine Coast Guard:
- Bringing international attention to China’s harassment of Filipino fishermen in the Philippine EEZ and its continued violation of the Hague Ruling and the UNCLOS;
- Utilizing international fora to rally multilateral support for the enforcement of the Hague Ruling and raise awareness on the real situation in the WPS;
- Engaging like-minded countries in various international organizations, meetings, and other fora to call on China to respect the Hague Ruling and the UNCLOS; and subject to necessity and prudence;
- Filing a Resolution before the United Nations General Assembly, to call for the cessation of all activities that harass Philippine vessels and violate the Philippines’ established rights in the West Philippine Sea;
- Pursuing such other diplomatic modes as the DFA may deem appropriate and necessary.
“It is hereby resolved by the Senate of the Philippines to strongly condemn the continued harassment of Filipino fishermen and the incursions in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels, and to urge the Philippine Government to take appropriate action in asserting and securing the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its EEZ and continental shelf, and to call on China to stop its illegal activities in accordance with the United Nations Convention on The Law Of The Sea and the 2016 Ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” the resolution read. (ai/mnm)