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Hontiveros: PH must go beyond diplomatic protests amid Chinese boats swarming in WPS

Julian Felipe Reef, WPS, SCS, Risa Hontiveros

The Philippine government must do more than just filing diplomatic protests amid the reported swarming of Chinese militia boats off Julian Felipe Reef, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros said Tuesday.

Hontiveros pointed this out as she noted that “no matter how many times our government and the international community condemn China’s illegal activities in the West Philippine Sea, Beijing simply does not listen.”

“By now, we should be doing more than fire off a diplomatic protest. We have to execute actionable on-the-ground steps to prevent the Chinese from any reclamation and base-building activities in Julian Felipe. Tiwala ako na gagawin na ito ng (I trust that this can be done by the) National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros said.

For Hontiveros, the recent report of swarming is “appalling” but “not surprising” as this had already happened in 2021 and 2022.

“Araw-araw, may plano ang Tsina na saklawin ang mga teritoryo natin. Maliwanag na sila talaga ang nag-uumpisa ng gulo, hindi tayo,” she said.

(Every day, China has plans to occupy our territory. It is clear that China is the one that is inciting trouble and not the Philippines.)

‘Disrespect to sovereignty, territorial integrity’

Senator JV Ejercito also called the swarming of Chinese militia vessels off Julian Felipe Reef as a “continued and blatant disrespect to our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“Masyado ng garapal ang [It’s a flagrant action on the part of the] Chinese government by continuing their expansionism under Xi [Jinping],” Ejercito said in a Viber message.

Over the weekend, the Philippine Coast Guard reported that more than 135 vessels of the Chinese Maritime Militia have been spotted off Julian Felipe Reef.

Julian Felipe Reef is located 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan, according to the PCG. It is considered a low tide elevation in the Kalayaan Island Group, over which the Philippines has sovereignty, it added.

But China said the operation of its maritime militia in the area is “justified and lawful” as it claimed that Julian Felipe Reef, which they called Niu’e Jiao, is part of China’s Nansha Qundao.

In August, the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution condemning China's incursions in the West Philippine Sea and its continued harassment of Filipino fishermen.

The measure also exhorted the Philippine government to take action in asserting its sovereign rights over the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The adoption of the resolution came after senators deliberated extensively on the resolution filed by Hontiveros urging the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to call out China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). — RSJ, GMA Integrated News