MANILA - The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Thursday urged President Rodrigo Duterte's government to uphold the legality of a 2016 United Nations-backed ruling invalidating China's expansive claims on the South China Sea, as the country continues to disregard it.
The Philippines has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the resource-rich area.
As of May 12, nearly 300 Chinese maritime militia vessels remain scattered off Palawan, both within and outside the country's exclusive economic zone, according to the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea.
In a statement, the non-government organization said the country's "instrumentalities," as well as the executive department, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Congress, Judiciary, and the constitutional commissions should affirm the legal declaration.
"[Uphold]... the Arbitral Award of 12 July 2016 that China has repeatedly violated the exclusive sovereign rights of the Republic of the Philippines to the Philippine [exclusive economic zone], and making clear that such arbitral award is not a mere piece of paper fit only to be thrown in a waste basket," the statement read.
Duterte earlier said the country's arbitral victory against Beijing was just a piece of paper which could be thrown away.
The government should also be clear in its stance that China and other nations are not allowed to fish in the country's territorial jurisdiction in the disputed waters, IBP said, noting that the West Philippine Sea's "use and enjoyment is reserved exclusively to Filipino citizens."
They also suggested that the government should reiterate that "any physical possession of the Philippine EEZ by China is unlawful."
In May 14, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio launched a petition urging Duterte to take back his statements that he deemed "detrimental" for the country's position in the West Philippine Sea.
A militant fishers group earlier in the day said Filipino fishermen in Zambales lose some 70 percent of their income due to the increasing presence of Chinese vessels in the Scarborough Shoal.
Duterte earlier this month also backtracked in his 2016 campaign promise to challenge Chinese aggression in the disputed area by planting the Philippine flag there, saying it was a "pure joke" and that those who believed it were "stupid."
Before this, the chief executive said the Philippines holds a "debt of gratitude" for Chinese aid, but that its waters "cannot be bargained [for]."