LAWMAKERS at the weekend slammed the latest water cannon attacks on Philippine vessels in separate incidents at the Bajo de Masinloc and Ayungin Shoal.
“The Philippines may be facing a giant in the West Philippine Sea, but we must also be reminded that David had defeated Goliath,” said Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva. “Might does not give China the right to fire water cannons at our vessels, make dangerous maneuvers or block humanitarian missions.”
Separately, Chinese forces also used water cannons on two Philippine vessels on a resupply mission at Ayungin Shoal, damaging two of these.
“China has to adhere to the international laws, such as the Unclos [UN Convention on the Law of the Sea], and must stop encroaching into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” Villanueva insisted.
For his part, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Senate Defense committee chief, said, “We strongly urge the Chinese government to respect international law, exercise restraint, and cease all actions that jeopardize the peace and security of the region.”
The Philippines, Estrada noted, “has consistently advocated for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to disputes, and we call on all parties involved to engage in meaningful dialogue to address the root causes of these incidents. We must pursue avenues that promote cooperation, understanding, and respect for each other’s rights in the pursuit of a stable and secure region.”
The actions of the China Coast Guard (CCG) should never have happened, and represents a “clear violation” of human rights and the law of the sea, and reflects utter disregard for Philippine sovereign right, according to Estrada.
We stand united in condemning these latest aggressive actions taken by CCG. We will not be cowed by any actions to intimidate or undermine our sovereign rights,” he added.
House Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez demanded concrete steps from Beijing to stop further “illegal action” by CCG ships in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Rather than resorting to such “harassment” activities, he called on China to engage in peaceful dialogue with the country to resolve territorial disputes.
The lawmaker made the remark after CCG ships fired water cannons and used long-range acoustic devices against three vessels of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
The BFAR vessels were on a humanitarian mission to Filipino fishermen near Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) when the incident happened last Saturday.
“The acts of intimidation and harassment against Filipino fisherfolk, who depend on these waters for their livelihood, are not only a violation of their rights but also an affront to human dignity. To prevent the distribution of humanitarian support is not only illegal but also inhumane,” Romualdez said in a statement on Sunday.
Bajo de Masinloc, Romualdez stressed, is within the Philippines’s 370-km exclusive economic zone, as established by the 2016 arbitral ruling.
“The Philippines, as a sovereign nation, will continue to defend its rights and protect the interests of its people. We stand in solidarity with our fishermen and reiterate our unwavering commitment to safeguarding our national territory and maritime entitlements,” Romualdez said.
The country has filed over 400 diplomatic protests against China.
The House of Representatives earlier issued its Resolution No. 1494 “condemning China’s activities in the WPS and urging the government to defend sovereign rights over the country’s exclusive economic zone.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin dismissed the resolution as groundless and misrepresenting and smearing the reputation of China.
“China’s rejection of the resolution is disheartening, especially in light of its continued illegal activities in the West Philippine Sea, a clear violation of the Arbitral Award,” Romualdez said.
Image credits: Philippine Coast Guard via AP