The Senate is set to tackle a resolution asking the Duterte administration to ban from receiving government contracts, or conducting business in the country, “foreign entities who are engaged in, or abetted activities, that infringed on the sovereignty of the country” over the West Philippine Sea and other areas within its territorial jurisdiction.
Filed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Resolution 507 cited ongoing efforts to liberalize the Philippine economy, particularly in the sectors of public services, retail trade and foreign investments “need to ensure foreign entities conducting business in the country shall respect and obey Philippine laws, including, and most importantly, laws governing national territory and patrimony.”
At the outset, the Recto resolution invoked a constitutional mandate for the State to protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use “exclusively to Filipino citizens.”
It recalled that China’s construction of the “Great Wall of Sand” and rampant militarization of the maritime area well within, or in proximity to the West Philippine Sea have “affected the lives and threatened the livelihood of Filipinos” in terms of degradation of the environment and deterioration of fisheries production.
Moreover, the resolution noted conservative estimates from a maritime expert from the University of the Philippines Maritime Science Institute show the Philippines is losing P33.1 billion annually in terms of food and other resource production, climate and environmental regulation, animal habitat provision, and cultural and recreational services due to the damaged ecosystems in the Panatag Shoal and the Spratly Islands brought about by dredging, reclamation activities and illegal fishing operations by Chinese entities.
In addition, the Recto resolution recalled the Unites States Government has imposed sanctions against the People’s Republic of China for dredging and reclaiming over 3,000 acres of artificial islands within or in proximity to the West Philippine Sea “instigating destabilization in the region, encroaching on the rights of sovereign nations and causing “untold levels of environmental destruction.”
At the same time, it acknowledged that the US government imposed visa restrictions against Chinese individuals responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, militarization of disputed maritime feature within or in proximity to the West Philippine Sea, or use of coercion against the Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources.
“The US government has also included several Chinese companies, including the China Communications Construction Company and its 24 subsidiaries, into the US Department of Commerce Entity List, which imposes restrictions on doing business with American companies,” the resolution said.
In turn, the resolution noted that the Philippine government itself has “yet to impose any sanction against any Chinese enterprise or entity despite being directly affected by their aggressive reclamation activities, establishment of Chinese districts in disputed maritime features, and continuous military buildup in areas within or in the proximity to the West Philippine Sea and the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone.
“While many local contractors were blacklisted for violation or circumvention of procurement laws,” it noted that Chinese enterprises, “notwithstanding a history of fraudulent public procurement practices or direct involvement in the reclamation activities in the disputed territories, are securing contracts for major infrastructure projects in the Philippines.”
The resolution added that Philippine businesses have, “for pragmatic or political reasons, ventured with foreign business enterprises, some being identified by other governments as “foreign military companies” or “entities owned by, or controlled by, or affiliated with foreign governments, militaries or defense industries.”
It suggested that the Philippine government must develop effective mechanisms to prevent and deter corruption and other criminal acts, ensure prudence in the use of public funds and foreign development assistance, protect and secure local businesses and enterprises, and preserve the integrity of government institutions and public service.