In her message for the WPS Legacy Rally today (July 12), which marks the country’s arbitration victory against China over the WPS, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima said that Filipinos should awaken their sense of bravery by not allowing China to bully the Philippines, especially on territorial issues.
Referring to former President Benigno S. Aquino III or PNoy, De Lima said: “Hindi naduwag. Hindi nagpakatuta. Hindi nagpa-bully. Hindi huwad ang tapang. Ang salita niya ay tinumbasan ng gawa. Hindi nagpasindak sa lakas ng Tsina, sa halip ay inuna ang Pilipino, ipinaglaban ang ating kalikasan at kabuhayan, ipinagtanggol ang integridad ng ating soberanya, at itinaguyod ang ating pambansang dangal.”
“Kaya naman sa araw na ito, ginugunita natin ang tagumpay ng Pilipinas, na kinikilala ng buong mundo. Hindi ito basta kapirasong papel na malulukot lang at itatapon: Ito ay makasaysayang dokumento na simbolo ng tagumpay ng Pilipinas at sagisag ng tapang nating mga Pilipino—kung paanong nanindigan ang gobyerno at nagkaisa ang sambayanan para harapin ang kalaban, gaano man ito ka-impluwensya o kadambuhala,” she added.
In highlighting Aquino’s courage, De Lima cited some of the statements of PNoy such as, “Wala tayong balak mang-away, pero kailangan ding mabatid ng mundo na handa tayong ipagtanggol ang atin” and “You may have the might, but that does not necessarily make you right.”
“Ito po ang ilan lamang sa mga pahayag ni dating Pangulong Benigno S. Aquino III, ang Pangulo nating ipinakita sa buong mundo na ang Pilipinas ay sa Pilipinas, at ang ating teritoryo ay para sa mga Pilipino,” she said.
It may be recalled that amid China’s aggression and incursions in the WPS, the Philippine government under PNoy filed an arbitration case in 2013 based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to settle the maritime dispute.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) released a decision upholding the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) rights in the WPS and declaring China’s controversial claim, outlined by an outrageous nine-dash line covering almost 90 percent of the contested waters, without legal basis in international law.
Stressing how Duterte’s leadership is a complete opposite as compared to that of Aquino’s, De Lima said Duterte continues to disregard the country’s arbitration victory against China over the WPS and consistently favors his Beijing masters over his own countrymen.
“Ang sigaw nga natin: Sa atin ang Pinas, sa inyo na si Duterte!,” said De Lima. “Sa araw pong ito, hindi man natin kasama si PNoy, lagi naman nating bubuhayin ang diwa ng kanyang pamumuno: ang responsableng pamamahala na nagpaunlad sa ating ekonomiya at tunay na ipinamalas ang good governance. Yan si PNoy, ang Pangulo nating maka-Pilipino at maka-Pilipinas. Ang layo po di ba?!”
“Sa ngalan ni PNoy at ng kanyang legasiya, patuloy nating ipamalas sa buong mundo ang pagkakaisa at paninindigan para sa katarungan, katotohanan at demokrasya,” she added.
In July 2019, De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 376 declaring July 12 of every year as the “West Philippine Sea (WPS) Victory Day” to mark the historic decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands and to commemorate the country’s arbitration victory against China.
Last April, De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 694 urging the government’s Executive branch to exert all legal and diplomatic actions on the Chinese government to assert Philippine sovereign rights in the WPS.
She is also among the 11 Senators who filed SR No. 708 calling on the Upper Chamber to “condemn in the strongest possible terms” the illegal activities of China in the WPS.
Concrete actions are especially important given the continuing encroachments of Chinese vessels, both military and commercial fishing ones, into the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, harassing, intimidating and threatening Filipino fishermen with violence in process, and ultimately depriving them and the nation of access to vital natural resources found in our EEZ.
“There is something very, very, very wrong with our government if Filipino fisherfolk on board wooden boats are doing more to assert and defend our nation’s rights than the entire Duterte administration, and the President, in particular, who thinks that their situation and their efforts to stand up to the Red Goliath in the North are a joke,” said the Senator. “These fisherfolk have shown more courage than President Duterte. They deserve a better President; and they deserve a better government that will stand up for them, and defend them. This is not just about a piece of the sea, but about our livelihood and the future of our people. That is what PNoy fought for, and that is what we should continue fighting for.” (30)