De Lima pushes anew for passage of bill declaring July 12 as ‘West Philippine Sea Victory Day’


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged her colleagues to help push for the passage of her bill, Senate Bill (SB) No. 376, filed way back in July 11, 2019, 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.

As Justice Secretary, De Lima was part of the Philippine delegation who presented the country’s case before the PCA.

“I hope that my esteemed colleagues in the Senate will act with dispatch on my proposed bill and help pass it into law soon not only to observe the country’s arbitration victory against China over the WPS, but also to remind the government to uphold our sovereign rights amid China’s continued bullying of our country,” she said.

“Declaring July 12 of every year as a Special Working Holiday dedicated to honoring this landmark decision favoring the Philippines could also help instill national pride among Filipinos while urging the Duterte administration to pursue and promote policies and programs consistent with the PCA ruling,” she added.

Amid China’s aggression and incursion in the WPS, the Philippine government under then President Benigno S. Aquino III 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 PCA released a decision upholding the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone rights in the WPS and declaring China’s controversial claim, outlined by a nine-dash line covering almost 90 percent of the contested waters, with no legal basis in international law.

The PCA also ruled that China’s large-scale land reclamation has “caused severe harm to the coral reef environment and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems,” thereby violating the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Under SB No. 2201, the Department of Foreign Affairs is tasked to “plan, design and implement activities” for the “West Philippine Sea Victory Day” to ensure the meaningful observance of the holiday.

“We should never set aside the 2016 Hague ruling but instead continue to stand against unrelenting Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea. Kagaya ng iba pa nating mga pambansang pagdiriwang, ang araw na ito ng pagkapanalo natin sa kaso ng WPS, ay paggunita sa pagpapahalaga sa ating pambansang dangal at pagtindig sa mundo bilang Pilipino para ipagtanggol ang para sa Pilipino,” said De Lima.

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.  (30)

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