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Condemning the bully

August 2, 2023 People's Journal 122 views

After some bickering over what to do about China’s intrusions into the West Philippine Sea, the Senate finally decided to call on government to assert our country’s sovereign rights over the WPS.

The bickering was among senators fed up with the Chinese intrusions on one hand, and those perceived to be “pro-China” on the other. But after close-door discussions with national security and foreign affairs officials, senators unanimously passed on Tuesday a resolution condemning China.

Senate Resolution No. 718 entitled “Resolution strongly condemning the continued harassment of Filipino fishermen and the persistent incursions in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels, and urging the Philippine Government to take appropriate action in asserting and securing the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone 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,” was authored by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

The Senate asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to pursue several courses of action including “filing a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly, to call for the cessation of all activities that harass Philippine vessels and violate the Philippine’s established rights in the West Philippine Sea.” It made clear, however, that such action would be “subject to necessity and prudence.”

The move of the Senate certainly reflects the sentiments of majority of the people. Since the arbitral ruling was handed down in 2016, various surveys showed Filipinos have overwhelmingly expressed desire for the Award to be enforced, and to resolutely oppose China’s violations in the WPS.

Unfortunately, UNCLOS has no enforcement mechanism. Bilateral talks with China to enforce the Award were ineffective. And all our diplomatic protests have not stopped the incursions and harassment of Filipino fishermen in the WPS. Despite being an UNCLOS signatory like the Philippines, China refuses to follow the arbitral ruling.

Thus, it is now essential to resort to other measures to up the ante on the significance of the Award.

While bringing the issue before the UN General Assembly may not lead to something legally binding, it would provide other countries affected by China’s actions the chance to bring out into the open widespread resentment and get more international support against the unrelenting bullying.

Discussions at the UN could focus on the adverse impacts of China’s behavior on freedom of navigation, regional security, and rights of coastal states that are being trampled upon. International support for aggrieved countries might just sway China to relent in its bullying, if it still values its global standing.

The Senate is right to urge the DFA to pursue these other actions: “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 West Philippine Sea; [and] Engaging like-minded countries in various international organizations, meetings, and other for a to call on China to respect the Hague Ruling and the UNCLOS.”

The rest of the world must be made constantly aware of how our giant neighbor is making a mockery of our sovereign rights in our EEZ which belongs to us.

It is our sacred duty to uphold what’s ours. Just as our forefathers fought off invaders, we who are beneficiaries of their sacrifices must do the same. We ought to exhaust all means, without resorting to war, to conserve our patrimony for the sake of our future generations. ANGELO TUGADO