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House eyes West Philippine Sea panel for Belmonte

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The leadership of the House of Representatives is planning to appoint Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. as chairman of its special committee on the West Philippine Sea.

“That has already been approved by the Speaker,” Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas told reporters yesterday.

He said he would still have to present Belmonte’s appointment on the floor for approval by the House. The former speaker welcomed the creation of the special committee.

He said lawmakers should not ignore the continuing dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

“Where in the world can you see that right in your doorstep, there is a foreign military base?” he asked.

He said his panel could help former president Fidel Ramos do his job as special ambassador to China.

Belmonte had supported the country’s filing of a complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague against China’s claiming almost the entire West Philippine Sea, including areas within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The arbitral court has resolved the case in favor of the Philippines. It invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim, ruling that at least three disputed areas, including Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, where Beijing has built military structures, and Recto (Reed) Bank, are within the Philippine EEZ.

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