Pimentel urges gov’t to look into increased Chinese presence in WPS
MANILA, Philippines — The government must take into consideration the increased presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea as it continues to draft a proposed charter to pave the way for a federal shift, former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. said on Friday.
In an interview after he spoke at a forum of the Philippine Press Institute, Pimentel, a longtime advocate for federalism, said the country must continue to assert its sovereign rights over Benham Rise, Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, Sabah, and the Spratlys islands, which have been the stage for heightened maritime tensions lately between Manila and Beijing.
“Our claims over these outlying islands are covered by international law and yet China continues to patrol our waters,” the 85-year-old politician said. “I disagree with that.”
He said the government should take these intrusions seriously amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s softball stance against Chinese aggression.
“I hope (these issues) would be considered and not treated (lightly). If China succeeds, it would be a diminution of our sovereignty over our territory,” he said.
Pimentel is part of the 22-member Consultative committee (Con-com) tapped by President Rodrigo Duterte to draft a new Constitution for a federal government.
Their proposed charter asserts that the contested islands, on which China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Malaysia also have overlapping claims, are all part of Philippine territory.
Article 1 of their proposed constitution states that the Philippines has “sovereignty over islands and features outside its archipelagic baselines pursuant to the laws of the Federal Republic, the law of nations, and the judgments of competent international courts or tribunals,” in reference to the July 2016 arbitration ruling over the West Philippine Sea.
Moreover, the draft charter also considers the national territory to include “terrestrial, fluvial and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas,” in reference to areas similar to Benham Rise.
“The Philippines, in my concept, consists not only of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. That is the figure that comes to peoples’ minds when we talk about the Republic of the Philippines,” he said during a forum on federalism hosted by the Philippine Press Institute.
He added that China’s claim that it owns these contested islands by “simply drawing a line” was a “bullying tactic.”
“If China can do it, we shall also do it, by drawing a 10-dash line,” he joked, drawing laughter from the audience.
Still, he said the country should pursue diplomatic and peaceful means in resolving its maritime disputes in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea.
“Hopefully, with the influence of other countries, China will also agree to that kind of resolution,” he said. (Editor: Eden Estopace)
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