South China Sea is ours
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - July 16, 2020 - 12:00am

It’s comforting to note that our government officials have become aggressive over our sovereign rights over the South China Sea. For so long, we seemed to have kowtowed to China’s aggressive claim of owning the territory.

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said the Philippines “will adhere without compromise to a 2016 court victory that nullified China’s claims in most of the China Sea.”

“The award is non-negotiable,” Secretary Locsin said during a program commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision which ruled China had no historic right to resources within the seas falling within its “nine-dash line.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called on China to comply with the arbitration ruling and international laws as regards its massive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

He said he “strongly agrees with the international community that there should be a rules-based order in the resource-rich region.”

“We urge China to comply with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling, and abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) to which it is a signatory,” Lorenzana said.

“It is in the best interest of regional stability that China heed the call of the community of nations to follow international law and honor existing international agreements,” he added.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III echoed the sentiment of Secretary Locsin and Secretary Lorenzana. He said the Philippine government should “continue asserting its sovereign authority over its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea despite China’s refusal to accept the 2016 ruling which invalidated its massive claims in the resource rich waters.”

“We should never give up the fight for what is legally ours,” the senator said in a statement. ‘”We should never cower in fear from the harassment and political intimidation that foreign governments impose on us,” he said.

“What is unlawful can never be made lawful by the whims and caprices of a foreign power which treats the entire South China Sea as its territory. We shall never give up our offshore treasures, Sotto said.

*      *      *

A news release tells us that the United States deemed Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea as illegal. The country also vowed to oppose China’s aggressive actions and ensure freedom of navigation in the area.

*      *      *

But we’re running into trouble with President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement last year where he said he would ignore the 2016 court ruling in order to advance oil exploration plans with Beijing.

My question is, did Secretaries Locsin and Lorenzana ask permission from President Duterte to close the door to China’s claim over the South China Sea?

*      *      *

The Chinese embassy in Manila  has quickly slammed Secretary Locsin’s pronouncement that “certain actions of China within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights and were thus unlawful.”

The embassy, as reported by the Philippine STAR, has not questioned the validity of Locsin’s and Lorenzana’s claim of the South China Sea belonging to the Philippines. Instead it talked about China and the Philippines “having reached consensus on properly handling the so-called arbitration case, which has laid down solid ground for the turning around of bilateral relations.”

In recent years, the embassy said, “China-Philippines relations have maintained healthy and steady momentum, with exchanges and cooperation in various fields making continuous progress.

“It is hoped that the Philippines could make concerted efforts with China in jointly securing the hard-won sound memento of bilateral relations and upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

*      *      *

Vote according to your conscience, said a legislator. But doing so seems to put House Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos-Recto in hot water.

Representative Santos-Recto was one of the 11 legislators who voted “no” to the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal application. Seventy of her colleagues belonging to the House committee on legislative franchises last week voted to deny the giant network’s franchise application.

Santos-Recto said she is ready to face the “consequences” of her vote favoring the renewal of the network’s franchise.

As to what consequences means, she said when she was interviewed on ANC, she recalled that in 2018 she lost a committee chairmanship after voting against the death penalty, which is favored by President Duterte.

Santos-Recto said (as printed in the Philippine STAR), “It happened to me already when I voted ‘no’ doon sa death penalty…sinabi nila na kailangan masuportahan ‘yong major bill na ‘yun, yung death penalty … unfortunately, I stood my ground and I voted ‘no’.” So she lost her chairmanship, she said.

She is part of the “super majority,” she said, but she is “an independent thinker.”

Santos-Recto is a former movie actress and wife of Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto. She says she sees “no conflict of interest” over her vote since she and her son, actor and host Luis Manzano, are not stockholders of ABS-CBN and she has no existing contract with the network.

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

TEODORO LOCSIN
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