Groups protest Chinese incursion in West PH Sea on ‘Araw ng Kagitingan’

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The broad local alliance Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) on April 9 commemorated Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) by holding an online multi-sectoral protest against the continuing incursion of Chinese forces at the West Philippine Sea.

Since March, over a hundred Chinese vessels have been spotted at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the latest threat posed by China in the West Philippine Sea. The reef is within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

P1NAS led different organizations and concerned citizens in denouncing China’s continued incursion in the West Philippine Sea, as well as the lack of resolute action by the Philippine government in defending the country’s sovereignty.

“Habang ginugunita natin ang katapangan ng mga Pilipinong lumaban sa dayuhang mananakop nung World War II, may bagong mananakop na kailangan din nating labanan — ang Tsina,” P1NAS convenor Atty. Neri Colmenares said.

The lawyer said that China is stepping on the Philippines’ sovereign rights of the West Philippine Sea and that its presence at Julian Felipe Reef must be condemned for violating our sovereignty in accordance with international law. He added that under international law, no single country can control an entire sea.

“[Ito ay] pagkait ng napakahalagang mga yamang dagat sa ating mga mangingisda at mamamayan sa sarili mismo nating exclusive economic zone,” he said.

Chinese presence in the reef, moreover, runs counter to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea of which China is a signatory.

The said agreement states that parties must “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features…”

Colmenares said that protests of the Department of Foreign Affairs and other government agencies are useless if President Rodrigo Duterte himself kneels subserviently to China.

“Dapat igiit kay President Duterte na tindigan ang ating territorial rights sa West Philippine Sea at i-abandona na ang kanyang patakaran pagpapaalipin sa Tsina at sa iba pang mga bansa.”

P1NAS called on other states adversely affected by Chinese incursions, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, to cooperate with the Philippines in holding joint patrols to uphold sovereignty.

The alliance also called on the international community to support the said countries’ cause, especially by passing a resolution at the United Nations that would order demilitarization in the South China Sea, as well as dismantle any installation or military equipment of China and other countries.

“Sa pamamagitan nito, matatanggal natin ang military superiority ng Tsina sa rehiyon at masimulan na ang mapayapang paglutas sa sigalot sa Asia,” Colmenares said.

Meanwhile, Pedro Gonzales of fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) said it’s an open secret that Chinese vessels moored and anchored at Julian Felipe Reef are not fishing or taking shelter.

“Alam ng taga-Malacañang ‘yan. Alam ng lahat ng Pilipino ‘yan. Na tayo ay binobola, niloloko. Pero bakit ang tanong ay pag mga Pilipino ang nangingisda diyan, pinalalayas nila? Pinalalayas tayo sa ating sariling bakuran,” he said.

The fisherfolk leader said that it is an insult to our Filipino predecessors to commemorate Araw ng Kagitingan without vigilantly upholding our sovereignty.

“Hindi katanggap-tanggap sa hanay ng mangingisda ang ganitong nangyayari sa atin. Lalong hindi rin katanggap-tanggap sa amin na mangingisda at sa lahat ng Pilipinong binigyan ng malaking aral ng ating mga bayani na ipagtanggol ang ating bayan. Ang ating soberanya.”

Different groups from a broad political spectrum attended the ‘Atin ang Pinas’ protest. UP law expert Jay Batongbacal and UP marine science institute’s Dr. Deo Onda spoke on the dangers of China’s continued incursion in the West Philippine Sea, while opposition leaders Mother Maryjohn Mananzan, Senators Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Bayan’s Renato Reyes, Bro. Armin Luistro, youth leader James Carwin, and many others shared messages of unity in defending the nation’s sovereignty.

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