House urged: Declare July 12 West Philippine Sea Victory Day

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
House urged: Declare July 12 West Philippine Sea Victory Day
Regardless of identity of the South China Sea claimant, the US challenged unlawful restrictions imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam requiring either permission or advance notification before a foreign military vessel, including the US, engages in “innocent passage.”
SFP / File

MANILA, Philippines — On the fifth anniversary of the Philippines' historic arbitral win over China, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City) on Monday disclosed he filed a resolution urging Congress to declare July 12 of every year as National West Philippine Sea Victory Day to commemorate the victory.

He was referring to the country's victory before the UN-backed the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague which unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines and rejected China's sweeping claims over virtually the entire West Philippine Sea area within its so-called nine-dash line. 

Rodriguez, who also serves as House Deputy Speaker, said he filed House Resolution No. 1975 on July 7 to underscore the Philippines' ownership of its 200-mile exclusive economic zone which includes the Kalayaan Islands, the Spratly Islands and Panatag Shoal. 

“The WPS is exceptionally biodiverse, and contains numerous species of fish, echinoderms, mangroves, seagrasses, giant clams, and marine turtles, including those considered vulnerable or endangered, and vast coral reefs,” he said, highlighting the importance of keeping the win "alive in the hearts of our people, despite others believing that it is a hollow victory."

The House solon pointed out that Filipino fishermen have long been fishing in the West Philippine Sea, adding that the territory reportedly contains trillions in cubic feet of natural gas and 5.4 billion barrels of oil, which he said could address the energy requirements of the country and lessen its dependence on crude oil imports.

“Because of the rich natural resources in the West Philippine Sea, China has made untenable claims of indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea based on its so-called ‘nine-dash line’ that encroaches on 80 percent of the Philippines' EEZ in the WPS,” he said.

Rep. Manuel Cabochan (Magdalo Party-list), meanwhile called on the Duterte administration to invoke the historic arbitral ruling.

Cabochan pointed out that China has been more aggressive since 2016 knowing that Duterte "would not even buck."

“It is not merely a paper victory. It is a legal affirmation of what is ours and that China’s claims are baseless. For the President to dismiss that the arbitration ruling is just a piece of a paper implies that he does not know or understand how a landmark decision could be harnessed to pursue our national interests,” Cabochan said.

Earlier Monday, Vice President Leni Robredo also lamented what she said was the "five years of missed opportunities" for the Philippine government to assert its claim over the territory. 

Former foreign affairs chief Albert Del Rosario also pointed to President Rodrigo Duterte's "failure of leadership" in managing the West Philippine Sea tensions over the past five years of his presidency, going as far as questioning the chief executive's loyalty to the country. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has asserted that he cannot do anything on the maritime dispute as doing so, he incorrectly claimed, would mean going to war with the regional giant.

“Despite the clear victory of the Philippines, China has refused to acknowledge the ruling and has continued to harass Filipino fishermen and to illegally construct structures on the different islands in the WPS,” the House leader said.

“It is in this context that we should celebrate our David against Goliath triumph on July 12 of every year, but we should insist every minute that China should recognize, respect, and abide by the ruling,” he said.

— with a report from Xave Gregorio 






As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 12, 2021 - 8:32am

Social media users, including former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, are reporting seeing banners saying "Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China" hanging from overpasses in parts of Metro Manila.

The sightings coincide with the second anniversary of an arbitral tribunal ruling that China's sweeping nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea has no legal basis. The Philippines has opted to play down the ruling and focus on nurturing better political and economic relations with China.

It is unclear who put up the banners, which are a possible reference to a "joke" that President Rodrigo Duterte told Chinese-Filipino business leaders in February. 

"He (Xi) is a man of honor. They can even make us 'Philippines, province of China," we will even avail of services for free," Duterte said in apparent jest. "If China were a woman, I'd woo her."

The Palace said the remark was meant to impress the audience, who were Filipino citizens of Chinese descent.

July 12, 2021 - 8:32am

On the fifth year since the historic arbitral ruling in the South China Sea, the Philippines has yet to take full advantage of it to pursue its national interests, Vice President Leni Robredo says.

"Our fisherfolk remain unable to enter areas that have been the source of livelihood for generations of Filipinos. Alliances that could have been strengthened were allowed to erode, while those who bully their way into our waters have been treated with deference, and at times, subservience. The dream of a regional architecture founded on respect and mutual prosperity has become even more elusive," she says in a statement.

"The Hague ruling is now a definitive part of international law. It cannot be erased from the history books, and cannot be denied despite the unending lies spewed forth by a formidable machinery of disinformation. Filing the case before the tribunal— standing up for what is right, against the economic and military might of a world power— yielded the admiration and respect of the entire world." 

"Today’s commemoration is a reminder, a challenge, and a promise: That if only we can remember, if only we can unite, if only we can rediscover our spirit and once again stand for what is right— we will find, beneath the rubble of cowardice and neglect, our courage, our dignity, and our national pride."

July 11, 2021 - 3:07pm

As the Philippines commemorates the fifth anniversary of the July 2016 arbitral ruling, the Liberal Party expresses gratitude to the late president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III for his "good, brave, strong governance."

The opposition party stresses that the Philippines needs a leadership that will uphold the country's rights.

"As we commemorate this landmark ruling, so too do we commemorate the kind of leadership that makes victories like this possible: A leadership founded on the belief that 'The Filipino is worth fighting for,' as opposed to one that cowers and yields to bullies," the LP says in a statement released Sunday, a day before the anniversary of the landmark ruling.

July 12, 2018 - 3:25pm

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in response to criticism from former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario of the Duterte administration's handling of issues in the West Philippine Sea, says: "We do not agree with those who lost control of territory by their confrontational hubris."

He says President Rodrigo Duterte has instead "forged friendship which has obtained benefits for our people, boosted investment and trade for our economy, reduced the threat of conflict, and opened the door to confidence-building talks between ASEAN and China."

He says issues with China are handled through a dialogue between friends and not as an argument between adevrsaries.

"All this time, we are building up our capabilities to eventually assert our sovereign rights and interests. That is the policy that works for our nation," he says.

July 12, 2018 - 12:18pm

The Quezon City government has ordered its Public Safety personnel to remove tarpaulins that refer to the Philippines as a province of China.

In a Palace briefing earlier Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said "enemies of the government" are behind the banners.

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