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Hontiveros urges Palace to condemn China's aggression in WPS

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros on Friday urged Malacañang to condemn in the “strongest terms” the continuing aggression of China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Hontiveros made the remarks a day after Agence-France Presse reported that a Chinese coast guard ship cut off a Philippine patrol vessel carrying journalists in the disputed waters on Sunday, causing a near-collision of the two vessels.

The BRP Malapascua and BRP Malabrigo were shadowed by Chinese navy and coast guard ships, and ordered to leave the waters several times during the six-day journey.

“This was just the latest in a continuous, unbroken, and apparently unrepentant string of incidents that China should be accountable for,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“I expect that the Department of Foreign Affairs will file a diplomatic protest at once. Simultaneously, Malacanang should condemn, in the strongest terms, China’s ceaseless intimidation, torment, and threats,” she said.

The legislator also said the government “should not wait for an even worse incident in order to finally put its foot down and tell Beijing to cease and desist in this kind of aggressive action”.

“Ano pa ang hinihintay ng Palasyo? Na may Pilipinong tuluyang mamatay (What are they waiting for? That a Filipino would die)?” she said.

Hontiveros further reiterated the need for the Philippines to actively pursue “bigger alliances” and pushed for a “bigger coalition of countries who are against China’s misbehavior, who uphold our victory at The Hague, and who want to preserve peace and stability in the region”.

“We must also seriously look into reviewing our national policy towards China. Inaaraw-araw na niya ang pambubully sa ating mga mamamayan. Kailangan may mga polisiya tayong magtitiyak ng tunay na pagdedepensa sa karapatan at kabuhayan nating mga Pilipino,” she said.

(China has been bullying the Philippines on a daily basis. We need a policy that would truly defend the rights and lives of Filipinos.)

GMA News Online sought Malacañang’s comment on the issue but has yet to receive a response as of posting time.

China claims almost all of the resource-rich waterway, through which trillions of dollars in trade pass annually, with competing claims from the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, based on a case filed by the Philippines, junked China's nine-dash line claim covering the entire South China Sea (SCS).

The Philippines refers to portions of the SCS as the WPS. China has refused to acknowledge the ruling.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel said the countries staking claims in the highly-disputed territory should establish a “code of conduct” to avoid a repeat of the “unfortunate incident”.

“It is in the best interest of all parties to start behaving like civilized, respectful, and reasonable neighbors. Start a dialogue. Make concrete gains, no matter how small,” he said.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, for his part, said diplomacy should still be exercised in addressing China’s  “severe bullying,” adding the Philippines cannot afford to go to war.

“We really cannot fight them. We really cannot afford to enter into a war against them. With their sophisticated military equipment as against us, hindi tayo mananalo. (We will not win.) We have to seek help from our allies like the US,” Estrada, chairperson of the Senate defense panel, told reporters in an interview.

The legislator said he would visit the WPS “as soon as possible” to look at the situation following an invitation from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa echoed Estrada’s remarks and advised the Coast Guard to “maximize their escape and evasion tactics” amid China’s “bullying”.

“That is too much bullying but what else can we do? Hundreds of diplomatic protests have been raised by our government but were just ignored by China. We cannot afford to fire the first shot that would trigger a shooting war,” Dela Rosa said.

“My advice to our Coast Guard is to maximize their escape and evasion tactics and remember always that patience is a virtue,” he added.—Sundy Locus/AOL, GMA Integrated News