Stop ‘creeping occupation’ of ‘militia’ boats in WPS, Pacquiao asks China
MANILA, Philippines — China’s leadership should use its power to “disperse” the Chinese vessels that are still at the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef and to put an end to “this creeping occupation,” Senator Manny Pacquiao said Thursday.
“As a friend and neighbor, I appeal to the Chinese leadership to stop this creeping occupation and use your authority to disperse these Chinese fishermen around our San Felipe reef,” Pacquiao said in a statement, apparently referring to Julian Felipe Reef.
Pacquiao’s staff later issued a correction that “San” Felipe reef was meant to be “Julian” Felipe reef.
“This would show goodwill on your part and an affirmation of your position that this action has not been sanctioned by your government,” he added.
“Instead of expanding and occupying disputed territories, China should sustain building its goodwill and friendship towards its neighboring nations so that our whole region can look up to it as one of the world’s respectable global powers,” the senator further said.
On Wednesday, the Philippines already started lodging daily diplomatic protests over the continuing presence of the Chinese ships at the said reef in the West Philippine Sea.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has also demanded that China order the removal of the vessels from the area after Beijing said it does not plan to keep a “permanent presence” at the reef.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, likewise, earlier called on China to withdraw the ships from the West Philippine Sea, saying he was “no fool” to believe China’s explanation that the vessels are just taking shelter in the area due to bad weather.
“I stand with Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in his appeal to China to pull out its militia fishing boats that have encroached in areas surrounding the [Julian] Felipe reef which is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf,” Pacquiao said.
“We all must stand together in finding a just, peaceful and principled solution on matters that concern the whole of Asia, specially this matter on territorial claims which affects practically all nations in our continent,” he added.
The boxing champion-turned-politician also said that China “can and will elevate itself as Asia’s unifying force” should it start heeding to existing international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“It will show a neighborly gesture of mutual understanding and true friendship,” the senator said.
“Instead of expanding and occupying disputed territories, China should sustain building its goodwill and friendship towards its neighboring nations so that our whole region can look up to it as one of the world’s respectable global powers,” he added.
In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines invalidating China’s expansive claim over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. Beijing has repeatedly refused to recognize the ruling.