‘It’s China who should leave’: Senators hit Beijing’s remarks vs PH drills in WPS
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators on Wednesday slammed China for urging the Philippines to stop its activities in the West Philippine Sea in order to prevent any further escalation of disputes in the area, with one lawmaker saying that it is Beijing that is “destabilizing the region.”
“We will, if they stop too,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a message to reporters when sought to comment on China’s recent remarks.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, in a press briefing Monday, said the Philippines should “stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes.”
The Chinese official, who asserted China’s claim over the West Philippine Sea, told the Philippines to “respect” Beijing’s sovereignty.
But Senator Franklin Drilon said China’s statement was “in total disregard” of the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which invalidated China’s expansive claim over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.
For his part, Senator Francis Pangilinan called on China to “end its blatant and shameless disregard of international law.”
“China stands isolated from the rest of the International community in this regard,” he added.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, meanwhile, said: “It is China who is building military outposts and thereby destabilizing the region.”
“It is China who should refrain from escalating tensions and leave the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
According to him, the Philippines should continue working with the international community allies and “contain [China’s growing military presence in the West Philippine Sea [and] encroaching on our exclusive economic zone (EEZ).”
“Furthermore, [the Philippine government] should do more in protecting our fishermen in the area,” Recto added.
Senator Francis Tolentino also criticized China for asking the Philippines to stop its exercises in the West Philippine Sea.
“It is not just offensive but violates that general principle of international law that a State’s territorial integrity is inviolable!” he said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros likewise reminded Beijing to “stop contorting facts” in order to support its “baseless” claims in the area.
“Let us make it clear: Beijing has been the one disrespecting the Philippines’ sovereignty; not the other way around,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
Senator Nancy Binay, on the other hand, said that the country “cannot let the bullying continue by remaining scared and silent” even if the Philippines is a “peace-loving nation and have no hostile intent.”
“As a people, we will always be committed to working for a peaceful solution beyond the military realm, but we cannot just allow any country to diminish our sovereignty. We act with reason. It’s time to say enough,” she said.
Senator Joel Villanueva, for his part, defended the maritime patrols of Philippine authorities in the area, saying it is a “peaceful exercise of our rights.”
“It is to check on our fishing grounds. It is not an advance party of a reclamation expedition. Our ships are going there in peace,” he added.
China’s latest statement on the issue should prompt a review of Manila’s foreign policy with China, Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said.
“More than being offensive, it is the ultimate insult to our national dignity. Maybe it is time to review our foreign policy with respect to our diplomatic relations with China,” he said.
Over the weekend, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) announced that it has been conducting drills in the West Philippine Sea as part of efforts to secure “our maritime jurisdiction.”
The Philippines stepped up its presence in the country’s EEZ hundreds of militia vessels were spotted in Philippine waters.
The Chinese ships dispersed after the Philippines filed a series of diplomatic protests but remained scattered around the Philippines’ EEZ.
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