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University professors reject 'asserting sovereignty constitutes war' argument on West Philippine Sea
This handout photo taken April 14, 2021, and received from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) April 15, Philippine coast guard personnel aboard rubber boats and displaying a Philippine flag, patrol past Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
PCG/Releaed

University professors reject 'asserting sovereignty constitutes war' argument on West Philippine Sea

(Philstar.com) - April 19, 2021 - 8:45am

MANILA, Philippines — A group of college and university professors called on the Philippine government to take concrete actions to stand up against China's incursion into the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Professors for Peace pointed out that the presence of over 200 Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef and other features in the West Philippine Sea present a threat to the country's national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"We reject the argument that asserting our sovereignty, protecting our fisherfolk and managing and protecting our own natural resources constitutes a declaration of war," the Professors for Peace said in a statement.

This has always been the argument of President Rodrigo Duterte on why he cannot assert the Philippines' arbitral award on China: "We have to go to war and I cannot afford it."

READ: Duterte stresses Philippines not equipped to wage war with China'China has the arms. We do not have it,' Duterte says on West Philippine SeaDuterte bans Philippines from joining naval exercises in South China Sea

The professors cited Vietnam and Indonesia as examples for maintaining economic ties with China while also taking concrete efforts to stand up against Beijing's expansive maritime claims.

"We join the overwhelming majority of the Filipino people who have consistently called for a more decisive foreign policy and national security stance to protect our territory and our people, and to regain lost ground," they said.

As of Monday morning, a total of 528 professors from different colleges and universities such as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, Far Eastern University, Miriam College, among others have signed the statement.

The professors also expressed support for Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in demanding that the Chinese withdraw its ships from Philippine waters immediately.

"We cannot tolerate the outright theft of our natural resources and the harassment of our fishermen," the statement read.

The group called on Beijing to uphold its commitment to the international rule of law as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

China continues to reject the July 2016 ruling of an UNCLOS-backed tribunal that invalidated its historic nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, speaking at a virtual forum last week, warned that the UNCLOS will "collapse" if China succeeds in taking over the entire South China Sea.

"The nations of the world must unite to strongly push back China, otherwise if China succeeds in taking the South China Sea, or in making the South China Sea its own national lake, denying the application of UNCLOS in the South China Sea, then UNCLOS will collapse for other naval powers will also seize their new seas as their own possessions," Carpio said.

On April 14, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. ordered the filing of another diplomatic protest following a report from the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea that 240 Chinese vessels linger in the West Philippine Sea.

On that day, the Department of Foreign Affairs filed two protests — one for the disposal of Chinese ships to other parts of the West Philippine Sea and the other as the daily protest as long as there are ships in Julian Felipe Reef.

Photos released by the Philippine Coast Guard taken from April 13 to 14 showed that at least Chinese maritime militia ships remain in Julian Felipe Reef while a China Coast Guard ship was also spotted in another area. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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