Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Sen. Francisco “Kiko” Pangilinan (Photo grabbed from Risa Hontiveros’ Facebook page and Senate of the Philippines)

Senators supported the diplomatic protest that the Philippines had filed against China due to the presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea. 

The protest was filed on March 21 by  Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. upon the recommendation of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, after 220 “Chinese militia vessels” were spotted near Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef on March 7.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in a statement that the presence of the Chinese vessels was a “severe provocation” amid escalating tensions over the disputed waters.

“Habang nagkakandarapa pa tayo sa pagtaas ng mga kaso ng Covid-19 sa bansa, ang Tsina naman ay walang pakundangan ang pagsulong sa ating karagatan,” she said.

Hontiveros also emphasized the Philippines’s exclusive right over the resources in Julian Felipe Reef. She also said that China owed Philippines P800 billion in marine damages due to Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea.

“It’s maddening how China continues to snatch away our nation’s wealth while we’re in the depths of an economic crisis,” she said.

In April 2020, the senator filed Senate Resolution 369, which urges the Executive Branch to demand China to cease destructive activities at West Philippine Sea and pay P200 billion reparation fee for the damages, which would be used for the Covid-19 response.

Geopolitical weapon

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said in a tweet that China was using donated vaccines as a “geopolitical weapon.”

“Hindi ba parang nananadya at ginagawang ‘geopolitical weapon’ ng China ang mga donated na bakuna?” Pangilinan asked.

The senator also supported the diplomatic protest, saying that the country has strong “legal, moral and diplomatic” grounds.

“‘Di man tayo kasing laki o kasing lakas ng kanilang military, tayo naman ay nasa tama dahil atin ‘to,” he said.

In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration declared that China’s “nine-dash-line”  claim over almost the entire South China Sea has no legal basis. Ian Gabriel Trinidad.