On 123rd Independence Day, groups slam gov’t over West Philippine Sea

Groups slammed the Duterte government’s lack of urgency in defending Philippine rights over the West Philippine Sea as the country commemorated its 123rd Independence Day.

In a statement on Saturday, June 12, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines said that President Rodrigo Duterte betrayed the Filipinos by his refusal to defend the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

“President Rodrigo Duterte has disappointed and betrayed the Filipinos by continuously bowing down to China's interest, refusing to defend our law and sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, letting China take over the lands that were rightfully ours as stated in Article I of the 1987 Constitution as well as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, insisting that there 'would be war' if we assert our sovereignty even though it could be resolved through diplomatic pressure,” the CEGP said in a statement on Saturday, June 12.

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said that China’s construction of structures in the West Philippine Sea resulted in an estimated 16,000 hectares of coral reef destruction, costing an estimated P1.3 trillion in damage annually.

“We’ve seen how the Chinese militia vessels have displaced our fisherfolk as President Duterte blatantly surrenders the West Philippine Sea to China. It is also a surrender of our constitutionally guaranteed enjoyment of our national patrimony – marine biodiversity, fisheries, and offshore oil and gas reserves,” said Kalikasan National Coordinator Leon Dulce during the Independence Day motorcade protest in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati City.

The group added that the Chinese exploration in the West Phillippine Sea is costing the country to lose around 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 130 billion barrels of oil reserves.

The Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU) also called to expel China from Philippine territory.

“It has also been made clearer now more than ever that the Duterte regime has no plans of defying China’s imperialist exploits in the country. China continues to stake a claim on the West Philippine Sea, despite [the fact] that the Philippines has already won the Hague Ruling in 2016. But Duterte makes no move to protect and uphold our sovereignty,” the group said.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines in its historic case against China over the West Philippine Sea. The ruling said that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the “nine-dash line.”

However, the Duterte government has consistently downplayed the 2016 ruling and, instead, allowed China to fish in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Philippines loses to China 3 years after Hague ruling)

In its statement, the AMA Sugbo-KMU also called to oppose the push for charter change ahead of the 2022 elections. – Rappler.com