MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is set to create a new committee on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) after the country won its case against China before the United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague.
House Majority Floor Leader Rudy Fariñas said Quezon City 4th District Representative Feliciano Belmonte Jr, former House speaker, is being considered as committee head.
“We will still create it, and former Speaker, Rep Sonny Belmonte, is being eyed to chair it. I hope his strong sense of nationalism will make him accept the position,” Fariñas told Rappler in a text message on Wednesday, August 3. (LIST: House committee chairmanships of the 17th Congress)
According to Fariñas, the House committee on the West Philippine Sea will handle matters “directly and principally relating to the WPS (West Philippine Sea), including territorial and boundary disputes, national and regional peace, and security issues, joint cooperation arrangements and maritime and environmental concerns.”
As the House Speaker of the past 16th Congress, Belmonte was a part of the powerhouse Philippine team that brought China to court.
Their efforts led the Permanent Court of Arbitration to rule on July 12 that China has no basis to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within its so-called “9-dash line.”
The tribunal also upheld the “traditional fishing rights” of all nationalities in the Scarborough Shoal, including Filipinos and Chinese. (READ: Highlights of ruling: China violated Philippine sovereign rights)
Belmonte, however, is still mulling accepting the position, telling reporters in a text message: “Will study it and let you know later.”
His fellow Liberal Party member and House Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo thinks Belmonte is qualified to lead the new committee and should accept the position.
“He has been pushing for this even during the past administration as Speaker. He has a deep understanding of the issue, and this is on top of his personal relations with the prime minister or president of Vietnam and other parliament members of other countries,” Quimbo said in Filipino. – Rappler.com