MANILA, Philippines—What do Filipino students have to say about the West Philippine Sea row?
Amid the growing tension in the region over China’s insistence that it has sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, including parts known as West Philippine Sea, a group of US-based Filipinos is encouraging Filipino high school and college students to speak their minds on the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China in the sea.
The New York-based US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG) headed by entrepreneur Loida Nicolas-Lewis is sponsoring an essay-writing contest on the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute.
Philippine and Chinese ships faced off with each other at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a resource-rich reef 220 kilometers west of Zambales, from early April to mid-June.
The horseshoe-shaped reef lies well within the Philippine 370-km exclusive economic zone recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, but China insists it is part of its territory.
To end the standoff, Manila and Beijing agreed on June 4 to withdraw their vessels. President Aquino ordered home a Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessel and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources research ship. China withdrew its fishing boats, but not its three maritime vessels.
President Aquino said in June that he would order the redeployment of the Philippine ships to the shoal unless China withdrew its patrol vessels.
China has not withdrawn its vessels.
Lewis, national chairperson of the USPGG, said her group wanted to encourage “greater awareness” among young Filipinos of the “huge implications on their future” of who exploited the resources in the West Philippine Sea.
According to Celia Lamkin, chairperson of the contest committee, the essay-writing contest is open to all high school and college students, here or abroad, who are Filipino or of Filipino descent, and aged 10 to 25.
The theme of the essay is “West Philippine Sea and its impact on the future of the Philippines.”
The essay should focus on how the youth can help defend Philippine sovereignty over territories in the West Philippine Sea and protect the marine and energy resources in the disputed waters.
Entries must be unpublished, written in English, and not more than 1,500 typed words.
The contest rules are posted on the USPGG website, uspgg.org.
The group will start accepting entries on Dec. 1. Entries can be sent until Feb. 1.
The winners will be announced on Feb. 15.
In the college category the prizes are P50,000 for first place; P25,000, second place; and P12,000, third place.
For the high school category, the prizes are P30,000 for first place; P15,000, second place; and P7,000, third place.
There will be 10 consolation prizes of P2,000 each. The school of the student who tops the contest will get a certificate and P20,000.