Legarda pushes for PH to protect territorial waters

December 19, 2022

Following Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda’s proposal of passing a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate against the recurring violation into the country’s exclusive economic zone and claimed territory in the South China Sea (SCS), the Upper Chamber adopted on Wednesday, December 14, an unnumbered resolution regarding the “bullying” by a Chinese vessel to the Philippine Navy in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in November 2022.

This is in reference to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the historic Hague ruling in 2016 of the International Permanent Court of Arbitration that declared China’s expansive maritime claims to be devoid of merit.

“How else can we help the Philippine Navy, the fisherfolks not just in Palawan [but] in all coastal areas, and every Filipino living today and in the future? The effective implementation of the Hague ruling is our duty and it is the least we could do for the next generation of Filipinos,” Legarda stated as she interpellated on Sen. Francis Tolentino’s privilege speech.

Legarda added that there is a need for government agencies like the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to intensify their presence in the Kalayaan Islands.

BFAR Director Eduardo Gongona has said that thousands of fisherfolk benefit from the West Philippine Sea, especially those coming from the Ilocos Region, Central Luzon, Mimaropa, and parts of the National Capital Region.

He added that 324,312 metric tons of aquatic products were procured from the West Philippine Sea in 2020, translating to 7% of total fisheries production that year.

Legarda stressed that other than setting up the country’s territorial defense in WPS against harassment and incursions of Chinese vessels, the Philippines should also protect and preserve marine biodiversity.

“We just passed the budget and the signing is on Friday. BFAR has its own budget. There’s no need for us to wait to amend the 2024 budget. Perhaps from their budget on fishing boats, they can allocate for Kalayaan,” she said.

In November 2022, the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) interfered in the retrieval of space debris that fell within the territorial sea near Pag-asa Island. This was after Philippine personnel earlier detected the space debris within the country’s territorial waters. A retrieval operation took place but a boat from China Coast Guard deliberately interfered and cut the towing line to forcibly take the space debris.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued a note verbale to China in a continuous effort to assert the sovereignty of the Philippines over claimed territorial waters.

“Bawal ang bully sa mundo, Mr. President. “I want them to hear it, that’s why I am making my voice loud and clear. Wala akong sinasabing bully. Bawal ang bully. Kung sino matamaan siya ang masaktan,” Legarda stressed. (end)