MANILA, Philippines — The Palace on Sunday urged critics to let President Rodrigo Duterte continue his “careful, calculated, calibrated” approach to tensions with China in the West Philippine Sea instead of calling for “all or nothing” policies.
In a statement sent to reporters, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque again said that asserting the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea — the part of the South China Sea within its Exclusive Economic Zone — will lead to war.
UN urged: Act on Chinese presence in WPS
To recall, Carpio and Del Rosario said that Duterte shelved the ruling and refrained from pressuring China to follow the ruling in order to ease tensions in exchange for economic and medical aid amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Duterte in a public address on Wednesday night also blamed the previous administration and its officials for losing territories in the sea, particularly Del Rosario and Carpio themselves.
Fisherfolk petition UN
Progressive fisherfolk group Pamalakaya earlier Sunday said it had filed three petitions before the United Nations, urging the international body to act on what it said was the continuous Chinese usurpation of the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement issued Sunday morning, the fishers’ federation said that the petitions called on the UN to declare the controversial China Coast Guard Law null and void, calling for the demilitarization of the South China Sea, and look into the impacts of Chinese incursion to the livelihood of Filipino fishers and domestic food security.
Beijing passed the controversial law earlier in January allowing its coast guard to fire at foreign vessels. The Philippines has since filed a diplomatic protest over the law.
“With the increasing aggression and militarization of China in the West Philippine Sea through the passing of Coast Guard Law, we humbly appeal for your intervention by openly denouncing and declaring the law null and void,” one of the petitions addressed to UN Secretary-General António Guterres read.
Pamalakaya also slammed China for its “relentless disregard” of the international tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claim over almost the entire South China Sea, which includes 80% of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf.
“Our petitions complement the very principles of the arbitral ruling against China. These include the immediate pullout of Chinese personnel in our territorial waters, respect the rights of our fishers, and demilitarize our traditional fishing grounds,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson, said in a statement.
“Moreover, our appeal is in the framework of upholding the basic rights to food and livelihood of our fisherfolk, who are the direct victims, and for the peaceful, diplomatic and non-military resolution to the Chinese aggression and plunder,” the former lawmaker added.
The fishers federation said that they filed the petitions due to lack of concrete and decisive actions from the Duterte government.
“The Filipino fishers are tired of Mr. Duterte compromising our sovereignty in the name of foreign loans and now, vaccines,” Hicap said.
— Franco Luna with reports from Patricia Lourdes Viray
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