Senators on Tuesday called on the government to protect and defend the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) following Chinese vessels’ continued presence at Julian Felipe Reef.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a statement that Filipinos should back Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s position in defending the country’s rights over the reef, which China said it owned.

“Filipinos should stand foursquare behind DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for making known his strong position in defending our country’s sovereign rights over the Whitsun Reef (Julian Felipe Reef),” he said.

The West Philippine Sea (WPS) belongs to the Philippines, said Sen. Grace Poe, and that it is the government’s duty to preserve every inch of the country’s territory

“We must protect our fishermen’s right to livelihood in our seas. Clearly, they are among our most vulnerable population who brave the perils of the ocean just to put food on every Filipino’s table,” she said.

Poe also said that Filipinos must not allow their sovereignty to be trampled upon.

“Ang titigas ng ulo,” was Sen. Risa Hontiveros’ remark on the presence of Chinese vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef, pointing out that they could not fish in the Philippine EEZ without the Philippine government’s consent.

“As I’ve said in earlier statements, the Philippine government should also already study effective ways of making China pay for her incursion. Beijing has damaged parts of our seas beyond repair and it’s only right that it pays for this irreversible destruction,” she said.

She said the Chinese fishing vessels should be expelled from the Philippine EEZ and all illegal structures should be dismantled.

Julian Felipe Reef or Whitsun Reef is the largest reef of the Union Banks and is situated at about 447 kilometers from the Philippines. Hannah Beatrisse Oledan