Akbayan Party today stormed the Chinese Consulate Office in Makati in response to the series of military incursions by the Chinese government in territories claimed by the Philippines in the Western Philippine Sea in the past few months.
Akbayan Representative Walden Bello who led the protest denounced the provocative acts of the Chinese government, which he described as blatant bullying. The progressive legislator also reminded the Chinese government of its commitment to pursue the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Western Philippine Sea through diplomatic means.
“There are already diplomatic and civilized parameters by which claimant countries can resolve the conflict as laid down in the Declaration. However, the provocative actions of the Chinese government in using its military might to stake its claim over the area are already tantamount to bullying and a sign of disrespect for the Declaration,” Bello said.
Bello pointed to the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” signed by the heads of States of all ASEAN member countries and the President of the People’s Republic of China in November 4, 2002 to guide the conduct on peacefully resolving disputes in the Area.
Chinese vessels were reportedly seen to have entered into Iroquois Reef–Amy Douglas Bank located in the Western Philippine Sea and unloaded building materials. It was also reported that there have been more than 6 incidents of military incursions by the Chinese government in the past four months alone. Recently, Filipino fishermen were reported to have been fired upon by Chinese military vessels. Despite having no casualties, the said incidents have caused serious alarm.
Bello, who has a pending resolution in the House of Representatives to rename the South China Sea to Western Philippine Sea, also took note of the fact that the Chinese have already built structures on atolls within the 200–nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines which international law recognizes to be Philippine territory.
“It’s as clear as day that the territory upon which the Chinese are building their structures is Philippine territory. Even the Declaration which they signed lays down that the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which provides the 200–nautical mile rule must be part of the resolution of the disputes.”
Bello also added that the incursions are signs of disrespect towards Philippine sovereignty. “We cannot afford having our sovereignty over the area eroded because it also speaks about our country’s capacity in conducting its relationship with other countries which are militarily superior. We may not be as strong as China, but we deserve no less respect as they do.”
The Spratlys are a chain of small islets and reefs located within the disputed Western Philippine Sea, covering almost 430,000 square kilometers of sea. Aside from abundant marine resources, huge deposits of crude oil and natural gas are believed to be under the area. Estimates of the actual oil and natural gas deposits have ranged from 24 trillion cubic feet to 2,000 trillion cubic feet, making it one of the largest deposits in the world. It is believed much of these deposits are natural gas.
Because of this, the area is coveted by countries around the Western Philippine Sea. In total, six countries have laid claim in whole or in part to the islands. These are the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Taiwan, and China. There have been intermittent incidents of incursions in the area due to a lack of prior agreements on the conduct of partitioning the area. ###