Philippine senator backs bringing West Philippine Sea case vs China to UN

According to Senator Tolentino, the move would also bring to light the plight of Filipino fishermen who have been forced to stay clear of fishing grounds within the country’s EEZ due to the presence of Chinese patrol vessels.

Marlon Ramos

Marlon Ramos

Philippine Daily Inquirer


Sen. Francis Tolentino. (File photo from the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau)

June 26, 2023

MANILA – MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Francis Tolentino on Sunday supported the proposal of retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio for the Marcos administration to bring China’s bullying and aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to the attention of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

“I think Carpio is right [when he suggested] to elevate this to the consciousness of the member states of the [UNGA] since China has been disregarding the arbitral ruling,” Tolentino said in a recorded interview with radio station dzBB.

He was referring to the Philippines’ 2016 landmark victory in the arbitration court in The Hague that voided Beijing’s so-called “nine-dash line” claiming nearly the entire South China Sea.

Tolentino, who has a master’s degree in public international law, is vice chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, which is headed by Sen. Imee Marcos.

“There’s nothing wrong with [Carpio’s suggestion] as it will really make this an international issue,” he said.

In line with that recommendation, Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed a resolution on June 19 calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to seek UNGA’s action in putting an end to China’s harassment of Philippine vessels within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

‘Coastal states’
Carpio, who has been the leading voice in the country’s territorial dispute with China, had earlier said that the Philippine government must file a resolution in the UNGA to compel Beijing to respect the arbitral ruling.

“That will be put to a vote. I think we will win there,” he said in an online forum on May 30.

“Remember,” he added, “the majority of the members of the [General Assembly] are coastal states. They are afraid that their big neighbors might seize their exclusive economic zones.”

Fishermen’s plight
According to Tolentino, the move would also bring to light the situation of ordinary Filipino fishermen who have been forced to stay clear of fishing grounds within the country’s EEZ due to the illegal presence of Chinese patrol vessels.

Asked about the possibility of the UNGA ruling in favor of the Philippines, Tolentino said it was up to the DFA and the country’s representative to the international body.

“It depends on how our representative in the UNGA would explain the issue,” the senator said.

“But we have all the documents, not just the arbitral ruling, but also [the reports on] the bullying and other violations that China has been committing in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

In a separate interview on Sunday, Hontiveros said she was “inspired” by Carpio’s proposal in filing Senate Resolution No. 659, which, she added, also honored the legacy of the late Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, who had spoken out against China’s trespassing Philippine waters.

“It’s also based on my belief that the UN must be able to tell China to ‘stop what you’re doing and start behaving properly,’” Hontiveros said.

While a decision by UNGA may not be legally binding, it would bring “meaningful political weight” to China’s future actions, she pointed out further.

Furthermore, UNGA’s action may help shape the “international norms and national policies of member nations” and guide the directions of other international bodies such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, she said.

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