West Philippine Sea is not a community pantry for China – Zarate

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should not allow China to treat the West Philippine Sea as its community pantry where it can get whatever resources it needs, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said in a tweet he made on Tuesday.

Those resources should be made exclusive for Filipinos, he stressed.


“The West Philippines Sea is not a community pantry where we will just let China ‘get according to its need,’ be it our fish or reefs. The Philippines is ours,” Zarate said a Filipino, including the hastags #CommunityPantry and #AtinAngPilipinas, in his tweet.

The lawmaker made the statement just as community pantries started to pop all over the country to help people who have lost their jobs or business due to strict lockdowns imposed due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

Zarate made the tweet a day after President Rodrigo Duterte finally discussed in his pre-recorded weekly briefing China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

According to Duterte, he wants to stand up against China’s occupation of the West Philippine Sea, but it would only lead to war, which would be costly for the country. He also conceded that the disputed region was already in the hands of China, and that force would be the only way to retake the area.

In a separate statement, Zarate tagged Duterte’s stance – that asserting Philippine sovereignty requires “bloodshed and war” — as “clearly defeatist.”

“Figuratively, he just jetskied his way to China, waved and handed the white flag of surrender,” Zarate said, referring to Duterte’s campaign promise that he would ride a jetski to the West Philippine Sea, carrying a flag, and assert the country’s ownership of the area.


“These latest pronouncements would only make us lose more of our exclusive economic zone, like the Julian Felipe Reef now being claimed also by China,” Zarate added.

The West Philippine Sea again became a frequent topic of discussion came after the Philippine Coast Guard and the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported spotting last March 21 some 220 Chinese ships in line formation near the Julian Felipe Reef.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. then lodged a diplomatic protest, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana issued strongly-worded statements asking the Chinese ships to leave — after they remained in the area despite repeated demands to do so by the Philippine government.

Before that, Lorenzana said that Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian had “a lot of explaining to do” as to why the ships remained near the reef despite improved weather. Huang previously explained that the ships were there merely seeking shelter from bad weather.

Despite the warnings and the protest,  the NTF-WPS said last April 13 that Chinese Maritime Militia ships — not fishing vessels as Chinese authorities previously claimed — had been spotted at the Julian Felipe Reef.

The reef is just 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan — well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Chinese ships have repeatedly moved into the West Philippine Sea, which has prompted the Philippines to lodge several diplomatic protests.

China claims ownership of almost the entire South China Sea, saying that their nine-dash-line territorial claim has a historical basis.

However, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands issued a ruling in 2016 favoring the Philippines in the case it filed against China. That ruling invalidated China’s nine-dash line territorial claim, saying that it had neither historical nor legal basis.

Zarate believes that the ruling can be asserted through peaceful means.

“We can also assert our historic victory in the Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration as well as push for the code of conduct in the South China Sea. Joint patrols with other claimants is also an option,” he said.

“There are so many ways to stand up for our country without going to war. We should use these options now rather than surrender our right to our EEZ and the lives and livelihood of our people,” he added.


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