August 2, 2023
MANILA – The Senate on Tuesday adopted a resolution strongly condemning the continued harassment of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) by the Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels, as well as the persistent incursions of China into Philippine territory.
Philippine Senate Resolution No. 718, which is principally authored by Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri and Sen. Risa Hontiveros, also urged the Philippine government to take appropriate action in “asserting and securing the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.”
The resolution, Zubiri said, embodies the sentiment of senators who were in consultations on Monday with officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“We came out with a strong consensus yesterday after the discussions with the West Philippine Sea Task Force, together with the AFP Chief-of-Staff General (Romeo) Brawner and DFA Secretary (Enrique) Manalo. And actually, we never watered down the resolution that we filed, we actually strengthened the first resolution that we initially filed with Sen. Risa,” said Zubiri.
Last week, Resolution No. 659 was filed, authored by Hontiveros and sponsored on the floor by Zubiri, urging the DFA to sponsor a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), calling on China to stop its harassment of Philippine vessels in the WPS.
“I think what happened here is we strengthened the position of the government … And the beauty of this is, with proper consensus and of course consultations among our colleagues, we have come out unanimous,” the Senate leader stressed.
“Also, the resolution articulates the sentiment of the Filipino people and incorporates the views of responsible executive agencies. Their inputs shaped the final language of the resolution,” Zubiri added.
“Although authorship is ours alone, we can say that the text was influenced by Senate-Executive consultation.”
The adopted Resolution No. 718 enumerates the reasons China’s continued incursions in the WPS remain illegal, starting with its violation of the 2016 landmark ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which held that there was “no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line” and that China’s claims ran contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“Rather than comply with the decision, the Chinese government has instead chosen to ramp up its harassment of Philippine vessels, including those of the country’s fisherfolk, navy, and coast guard, thus undermining peace and stability in the region,” the resolution read.
“In clear violation of the Arbitral Award, China has built artificial islands in various parts of the WPS – fortified with airstrips, military installations, hardware, and equipment-and has militarized at least three of those artificial islands, arming them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment and fighter jets,” it added.
The resolution also noted that in June and July of this year, the Philippine Coast Guard and military observed the “increased presence of Chinese vessels and maritime militia swarming the Recto Bank and Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.”
“If we have not manifested our position, then it is as if China had succeeded in muzzling the Philippine Senate, ” he pointed out.
The resolution then enumerated the options the Philippine government can take in addressing China’s incursions in the WPS aside from holding dialogues with the Chinese government:
1. Bringing international attention to China’s harassment of Filipino fishermen in the Philippine EEZ and its continued violation of the Hague Ruling and the UNCLOS;
2. Utilizing international fora to rally multilateral support for the enforcement of the Hague Ruling and raise awareness on the real situation in the West Philippine Sea;
3. Engaging like-minded countries in various international organizations, meetings, and other fora to call on China to respect the Hague Ruling and the UNCLOS; and subject to necessity and prudence,
4. Filing a Resolution before the United Nations General Assembly, to call for the cessation of all activities that harass Philippine vessels and violate the Philippines’ established rights in the West Philippine Sea; and
5. Pursuing such other diplomatic modes as the Department of Foreign Affairs may deem appropriate
“So we thank our dear colleagues that with these options, we stand by each other and by our country. Regardless of political color, regardless of where we come from politically, we are together when it comes to the sovereignty of our country. And I am very proud of this Senate for doing so,” Zubiri said of the resolution.