Filipino business leaders urged China to respect the Philippines' sovereignty and refrain from becoming an "imperial power."
In a strongly worded joint statement on Wednesday, April 14, 8 business groups joined the government's call on China to withdraw its vessels from Julian Felipe Reef, which is located within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Management Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Bishops-Businessmen's Conference for Human Development, Filipina CEO Circle, Judicial Reform Institute, Cebu Business Club, and Iloilo Business Club issued the statement.
"Julian Felipe Reef is historically and by law undisputed Philippine territory, as was most clearly established in the 2016 ruling based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Our exclusive right over the Julian Felipe Reef carries with it the utilization of, and the obligation to protect, its economic benefits, such as its rich marine life and mineral deposits, for the well-being of each and every Filipino," the groups said.
The business groups also quoted statesman Deng Xiaoping, China's former paramount leader, in reiterating their call.
"In 1974, Deng Xiaoping said, 'If one day China should change her color and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression, and exploitation, the people of the world should expose it, oppose it, and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.'"
The Department of National Defense has ordered an investigation into the recent incident in the West Philippine Sea where heavily armed Chinese ships chased the crew of Filipino TV network ABS-CBN.