A lawmaker has filed a bill to declare July 12 as a special working holiday, seeking to mark the day an international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in its arbitration case against China over the disputed West Philippine Sea.
In a statement, detained Sen. Leila de Lima said she filed Senate Bill No. 2201 in a bid to recognize July 12 of every year as a "West Philippine Sea (WPS) Victory Day."
On July 12, 2016, the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands released an "award" favoring the Philippines in its case against Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
The ruling invalidated China's "nine-dash line" claim over nearly all of the resource-rich waters.
"[I]t is fitting and compelling that the 12th of July of each year be a Special Working Holiday dedicated to honoring this landmark decision favoring the Philippines, in the hope of instilling national pride among our people and motivating our government to constantly pursue and promote policies and programs consistent with the PCA ruling," De Lima said in a statement released on Thursday.
De Lima, a fierce administration critic currently detained on drug charges, said Duterte has "failed to stand against Chinese incursions in the WPS."
The lawmaker was part of the Philippine delegation that argued the case against China at the Hague in 2013, when she was justice secretary.
At the House of Representatives, Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano filed a similar measure.
The Philippine government under then President Benigno Aquino III filed in 2013 an arbitration case against China seeking to halt its incursions in the disputed waters.
The PCA ruling was handed down in July 2016, when President Rodrigo Duterte had assumed power. Duterte has put the ruling aside in pursuit of a more diplomatic approach, as he sought to establish closer economic ties with China.
In November last year, Duterte said the South China Sea was already in Chinese possession.
A survey in the same month revealed that most Filipinos were opposed to the government's supposed inaction on China's military encroachment in the West Philippine Sea.
China has continued militarization and island-building activities in the South China Sea, ignoring the ruling as it asserted indisputable sovereignty over the waters.