Senate of the Philippines

11 senators condemn China’s ‘illegal activities’ in the West Philippine Sea

Mara Cepeda

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IN SESSION. Senators attend their session on May 4, 2020.

File photo courtesy of Senate PRIB

The Filipino senators say China's unsanctioned incursion in the West Philippine sea 'must be firmly resisted and denounced'

Eleven Filipino senators filed a resolution denouncing China’s “illegal activities” in the West Philippine Sea, a part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines but which the regional giant is falsely claiming as its own.

In filing Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 708 on Monday, April 26, the lawmakers want the entire Senate of the Philippines to “condemn in the strongest possible terms the illegal activities” of China in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and other parts of the West Philippine Sea.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon led these 10 other senators in filing the resolution:

  • Ralph Recto, Senate President Pro-Tempore
  • Nancy Binay
  • Leila de Lima
  • Richard Gordon
  • Risa Hontiveros
  • Manuel “Lito” Lapid
  • Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan
  • Grace Poe
  • Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr
  • Joel Villanueva

The Filipino senators blasted Beijing for the continued presence of its military ships in the West Philippine Sea – a clear violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Hague tribunal ruling that junked China’s expansive claim over the South China Sea. 

“While China’s increasing dominance as regional and world power cannot be denied, its open and serious contempt of UNCLOS, as well as its expansion of influence in the area at the expenses of legitimate interests and legally-recognized maritime entitlements of smaller nations like the Philippines, must be firmly resisted and denounced and the 2016 PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration) Award vigorously asserted,” said the senators.

They added that China “should not be allowed to rewrite or nullify” the UNCLOS, as it not only disregards international law but also deprives Filipino fishermen of their livelihood. 

“Neither close diplomatic and political ties nor promise of donations, aids, or loans, whether they actually materialize or not, should be mistaken as acceptance of China’s creeping hegemony over our region and country, and no promise of economic largesse often undelivered should soften our resolve against these illegal and unwarranted incursions,” said the senators.

The Filipino lawmakers penned their resolution in the wake of the Chinese military’s refusal to leave the West Philippine Sea despite daily diplomatic protests filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs. 

As of April 20, Philippine maritime law enforcement agencies counted a total of 165 Chinese vessels in the West Philippines Sea. The current number is lower compared to the 240 Chinese ships initially spotted by the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea on April 11. 

The Philippines has since been demanding the complete withdrawal of all Chinese vessels in its waters, and has been backed up by its oldest and most powerful treaty ally, the United States.

No less than Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has long held a pacifist view on China’s unsanctioned incursion in the West Philippine Sea. 

Duterte has downplayed the Philippines’ tribunal victory over China numerous times, claiming that insisting on the Philippines’ legal triumph would only spark war with the regional giant.

But critics, including other senators, have said the Philippines can push to forge stronger alliances with other foreign nations to put more pressure on China to leave the West Philippine Sea.

If the Senate adopts PSR 708, the document would merely express the “sense” of the chamber. It will not compel Duterte to do any actions, as a mere resolution will not have the full force and effect of the law. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.