TWELVE months before next year’s presidential elections, 11 senators crossed party lines Monday in filing a resolution denouncing China’s “illegal activities” in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The bipartisan resolution, with Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon as main author, supports the position of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Before he joined the government, Locsin was a hard-hitting print journalist, while Lorenzana retired as a three-star police general and a member of Class 1973 of the Philippine Military Academy.
The two outspoken Cabinet members have been demanding the pullout of Chinese ships from the so-called Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines, including the Julian Felipe Reef.
Co-authors of Resolution 708 are Sens. Ralph Recto, Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Lito Lapid, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva and Bong Revilla Jr.
The strongly-worded Senate resolution said the continued presence of Chinese vessels in the country’s territories violates the landmark United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
What China is doing, which is also against the 2016 award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, does not promote stability in the region, according to Drilon, a former justice secretary.
Drilon said China should not be allowed to rewrite or nullify UNCLOS, which was painstakingly negotiated and ratified by more than 100 countries, including China and the Philippines.
In the view of some quarters, the presence of Chinese fishermen in the country’s EEZ will be a major issue in the 2022 elections because it is depriving Filipino fishermen of their livelihood.
It’s certainly time for our lawmakers and other public servants to discuss the pros and cons of protecting the Filipino people’s interests in the natural resources-rich West Philippine Sea.