Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged Filipinos to help defend the country’s sovereignty by voting for candidates who can assert and fight for the country’s territorial integrity in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, maintained that WPS issue should be among the top priority issues of ALL candidates in the national elections, and that and every single voter from all walks of life should always keep the position of every candidate on the said issue in mind when they cast their vote.
“Hindi dapat mawala sa diskurso ang usapin ng West Philippine Sea. Gawin natin itong normal na bahagi ng pang-araw-araw na usapin, katulad ng trabaho, pabahay, pagkain, kalusugan.
“Buhay at kabuhayan ng ating mga kasamang mangingisda ang nakasalalay dito; kinabukasan ng ating mga anak, nating lahat. Dahil dito, kailangang malinaw din sa taumbayan ang paninindigan ng ating mga kandidato pagdating sa usapin ng WPS,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No. 1178.
De Lima made the statement after Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. confirmed that Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and water- cannoned Filipino boats that were in a mission to resupply BRP Sierra Madre, a ship grounded at the Ayungin shoal last Nov. 16.
Ayungin Shoal, where BRP Sierra Madre was intentionally grounded to serve as an outpost of the Philippine Navy, is well within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“China fired water cannons on our supply ships, bringing supplies to our Philippine Navy outpost established well within our Exclusive Economic Zone, and its no. 1 lackey is running for the Senate,” she lamented.
“To be clear, the Arbitral Tribunal Award of June 2016 has ruled that China’s so-called ‘9-dash line’ had no basis, historically or legally,” she added.
Note that 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 the South China Sea but China refused to honor the ruling.
The said arbitral award recognized the Philippines’ special rights and jurisdiction, as a coastal sovereign state under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), regarding the exploration, use and preservation of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind, in areas within its EEZ in the WPS.
If candidates who favor a pro-China foreign policy win in 2022, De Lima warned of the possibility of “a total blockade of our own territory.”
“While this is not the first time that China attempted to block supplies for our soldiers in the Ayungin Shoal, it has now taken a more aggressive attempt to assert its fallacious claim in the West Philippine Sea,” she said.
De Lima, who was part of the Philippine delegation who argued the country’s arbitration case against China over the WPS before The Hague during her stint as Justice Secretary, maintained that it is not enough to just file diplomatic protest after diplomatic protest every time China goes on a bullying rampage, especially when it is refusing any diplomatic attempt to resolve the dispute.
“Malinaw yan. What we need is political will to defend our sovereignty and tell China to back off. We cannot afford another six years of subservience and servility, in the guise of ‘a long and abiding friendship,” she said.
“Hindi ito isyu na pwede pang ipagpaliban ng anim pang taon o mahigit. Ito ay isyung napapanahon at, sa totoo lamang, matagal nang pinabayaan ng Administrasyong Duterte, na naghihilik at namumuhay nang masagana sa Davao at Malacañang habang ang mga sundalo, mangingisda at soberanya ng bansa ay inaalipusta ng kanyang among-dayuhan,” she added.
In 2019, De Lima filed Proposed Senate Bill (SB) No. 376, declaring July 12 of every year as the “West Philippine Sea Victory Day” to mark the historic decision of the PCA in The Hague, Netherlands and to commemorate the country’s arbitration victory against China.
Last April, De Lima filed Proposed 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. (30)