MANILA - Government officials must enforce the law, especially when it comes to protecting the country's marine resources, an expert said Friday.
There are enough laws to protect the rights of Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea but implementation remains a problem, veteran rights lawyer Chel Diokno said.
Diokno, the founding dean of the De La Salle University College of Law, pointed out the country's sovereign rights issue in the West Philippine Sea is "not a question of a lack of legal framework."
"The question is the lack of implementation of the legal framework,” Diokno said in a forum of the 3rd-year anniversary of a United Nations arbitral ruling that invalidated China's economic claims in the West Philippine Sea.
Diokno said there is a 1987 constitutional provision that requires the State to ensure the resources in the country's waters are for the exclusive use of Filipinos.
There are also international and local laws that reinforce the jurisdiction of the country over its territorial waters disputed with China such as the United Conventions of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) or Republic Act 9522, or "An Act to Define the Archipelagic Baseline of the Philippines and for Other Purposes," according to the lawyer.
President Rodrigo Duterte and his officials have made recent statements allowing China to fish within Philippine waters despite the UN arbitral ruling.
“I consider this a betrayal of public trust,” Diokno said.
Diokno said he has yet to hear Philippine officials cite the existing local laws that protect the country's sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.
The latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS) revealed that 93 percent of Filipino adults found it important for the government to regain control of islands in the West Philippine Sea.
Diokno urged the public to call on the government to defend the country's sovereignty in the territorial waters being disputed with China.
“We need to make our voices heard. We need to emphasize to them (government) the dire necessity for action kasi habang walang ginagawa ang pamahalaan, araw-araw sobrang nasisira na ang ating kalikasan lalong lalo na sa West Philippine Sea,” Diokno said.
(If we allow this, that while the government is doing nothing, our marine resources are getting destroyed.)
- Nica Hanopol