MANILA, Philippines — Two senators said the Philippines should band together with its Southeast Asian and Western allies to take action against continuing Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea, with one saying that Beijing just “continues to ignore” the diplomatic protests filed by Manila.
“Diplomatic protests may not be too helpful anymore as China continues to ignore the same,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a statement Tuesday.
“Further, while it is a standard document used to call the attention of the other party, China’s consistent attitude of taking for granted such action taken by the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) reduces it to a mere point of information,” he added.
Lacson, the chairman of the Senate national defense committee, said the Philippines and its allies in the Asia-Pacific Region and partners in the West should work together to “maintain the balance of power” in the contested waterway.
“Perhaps China would not be so dismissive if we and our allies, both in the Asia-Pacific and the west, show we can band together to maintain a balance of power in the region, including the West Philippine Sea,” the senator said.
The Philippines earlier lodged a diplomatic protest against the presence of Chinese vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippines Sea and demanded that China withdraw its maritime vessels in the area immediately.
On Monday, the DFA warned China of daily diplomatic protests for each day that the Chinese ships remain in the West Philippine Sea.
But Senator Risa Hontiveros said the country’s repeated calls for China to show “respect for our seas, our sovereignty, and our people…have fallen on deaf ears.”
She urged the DFA to take immediate action and champion diplomatic initiatives within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) amid escalating Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
“The Asean should stand together against China’s bullying. We should put our differences aside and work towards the common goal of opposing unfounded and over-ambitious Chinese territorial claims in the region,” she said.
“The Asean should be able to compel China to reach a consensus on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea,” the senator added.
Hontiveros warned that if Asean countries do not adopt a “common stand” on the South China Sea, the nations’ shared interests cannot be protected.
“Southeast Asia on its own should also still take a common stand through a dialogue within the member states for the first round of talks. Then engage China in the framework of and towards an Asean-China Code of Conduct,” she added.
She underscored the “paramount” importance of a “stronger alliance” between Asean members in addressing the escalating Chinese aggression in disputed waters.
Furthermore, she expressed alarm over the lingering presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
“Walang preno ang pananalakay ng Tsina…It is infuriating that China is taking advantage of a global crisis to consolidate its territorial claims in the region by parking its military vessels within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” she said.
“Hindi lang sila ‘business-as-usual’ sa gitna ng pandemya, nambabanta-as-usual pa,” she added.
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