Senators decried China for its refusal to acknowledge the presence of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea.

This was after the Chinese Embassy denied on Monday, March 22  the presence of 220 Chinese militia vessels in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, calling the protest as “unnecessary irritation.”

According to Sen. Risa Hontiveros, China was “gaslighting” the Philippines.

“Pinapalabas ng Tsina na tayo ay nagha-hallucinate. Nakakapagod ang patuloy nilang pagbabaluktot ng katotohanan para sa sarili nilang interes,” she said. 

The senator also said China’s claim that the reef is part of Nansha district is “illegitimate.”

“How dare the Chinese embassy say that we are the ones  causing ‘unnecessary irritation’? Tsina ang naglabag ng batas, bakit Pilipinas ang mag-aadjust?” Hontiveros asked.

In its statement, Chinese Embassy called the reef by its Chinese name, “Niu’e Jiao.” It also said that it was common for Chinese fishing vessels to moor near the reef due to “rough sea conditions.”

Hontiveros called on the Duterte government to unanimously protest China’s intrusion in the country’s waters.

“Ipagsigawan natin sa Tsina na atin lang ang West Philippine Sea, atin lang ang ‘Pinas,” she said.

Betrayal of friendship

Sen. Richard Gordon said China’s “coercive and destabilizing” action in the West Philippine Sea was a betrayal of friendship toward  Filipinos.

“China as a major power,…should set the example of responsible governance with policies and actions that adhere to its international commitments,” he said.

Gordon also urged China not to be a “bullying neighbor.”

“I would urge our good neighbor, the Chinese government in particular, to adopt policies and actions that contribute to peace and stability in the region,” the senator said.

The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China on March 22 after 220 Chinese militia ships were spotted near Julian Felipe Reef by the Philippine Coast Guard last March 7. Ian Gabriel D. Trinidad