De Lima slams Duterte’s cowardice on WPS issue


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Re-electionist Senator Leila M. de Lima slammed Mr. Duterte’s continued refusal to assert the country’s territorial integrity and sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) just as his term is about to end.

 De Lima said Duterte’s continued kowtowing to his Beijing masters only highlights his cowardice.

 “Hanggang dulo ng kanyang termino, wala talagang balak manindigan para sa ating soberanya at teritoryo itong si Duterte. Aside from thousands of killings, culture of impunity andcorruption, surrendering the country’s sovereignty over the WPS to China is his legacy,” she said.

 “Hindi dapat hayaan itong si Duterte na patuloy na gamitin ang kanyang puwesto para linlangin at paniwalain ang mga Pilipino na walang mali sa ginagawang pambubully, pagkakait sa kabuhayan ng mga mangingisda at pagkamkam sa ating teritoryo ng Tsina,” she added.

During the recent inauguration of the China-funded Binondo-Intramuros Bridge in Manila, Duterte reportedly said that Manila and Beijing “do not have any quarrel” and could “talk” about the disputed Spratly Islands, as fresh tensions surfaced in the WPS.

It may be recalled that the Philippine Coast Guard in late March accused its Chinese counterpart of steering one of its ships within meters of a Filipino patrol boat near the Scarborough Shoal, locally known as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc.

According to reports, the Philippines recently lodged another protest against China after a Chinese vessel entered Philippine waters “without permission”, reaching the waters of Palawan’s Cuyo Group of Islands and Apo Island in Mindoro. The Chinese vessel allegedly observed joint marine exercises between the Philippines and the United States earlier this year.

In a landmark ruling on July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) found no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to a “nine-dash line” in WPS, including Spratlys Island and Panatag Shoal, but China refused to honor the ruling.

Given the current government’s continued refusal to assert the country’s sovereign rights, De Lima reiterated the need to elect candidates who will put issue on WPS at the top of their priority.

 “Gaya ng matagal ko nang sinasabihindi dapat mawala sa diskurso ang usapin ng West Philippine Sea. Kailangan natin ng lider na magpapahalaga sa isyung ito, at gagawin itong regular na bahagi ng pang-araw-araw na usapin, katulad ng trabaho, pabahay, pagkain, kalusugan,” she said.

Last year, 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 in asserting Philippine sovereign rights in the WPS.

De Lima is also among the 11 Senators who filed SR No. 708 urging the upper chamber to “condemn in the strongest possible terms” the illegal activities of China in the disputed waters. (30)

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