Panel OKs West Philippine Sea Victory Day bill
In a move that may not sit well with Beijing, a House of Representatives panel has endorsed a bill that would make July 12 every year West Philippine Sea Victory Day to commemorate the Philippines’ successful challenge to China’s claim over nearly the entire South China Sea.
The House committee on revision of laws chaired by Pangasinan Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas approved last month House Bill No. 8966 setting July 12 as a national holiday to celebrate the Philippine victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the Netherlands, on that date in 2016.
The bill authored by Agabas and Rep. Gary Alejano of the Magdalo party-list group would “commemorate the momentous victory of the Philippines” in the United Nations arbitral court, “preserve the significance of the ruling,” and “ensure that our rights and access [to] the resources in the West Philippine Sea are preserved.”
West Philippine Sea is the local name of the waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea.
In 2013, under then President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippine government initiated arbitral proceedings against China at the tribunal to invalidate China’s sweeping claim over the resource-rich South China Sea.
The Filipinos argued that China’s claim had no basis in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
On July 12, 2016, the Hague court handed down a unanimous decision declaring China’s claim invalid and pronouncing China in violation of the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea.
But President Rodrigo Duterte, who came to power two weeks before the decision came down, has refused to assert the ruling, preferring to improve relations with China to obtain Chinese aid, loans and investments.
China was only too happy to oblige the President, and pledged $24 billion to help finance his ambitious infrastructure program.
‘No legal basis’
“The [arbitral court] declared that China’s [sweeping claim] has no legal basis in international law. Moreover, the efforts exerted by the Philippine government displayed our country’s commitment to international law and due process,” Alejano said in a statement.
“More importantly, the [tribunal’s] ruling affirms the country’s entitlements over the resources within the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
The bill directs the Department of Foreign Affairs to plan and implement activities that inspire and instill a sense of patrimonial pride in every Filipino.
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