'Whims, caprices of foreign power' can't make Beijing's 'unlawful claims' in South China Sea legal: Sotto

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 14 2020 04:50 PM

The Philippine Flag hoisted at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal part of the disputed Spratly Islands, March 30, 2014. Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News/File Photo

MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday backed Manila's and Washington's stance that Beijing's claim in the West Philippine Sea remains "unlawful" despite the continued incursions of the Asian giant in the disputed territory.

Sotto's statement comes days after the Philippines marked the 4th anniversary of the its arbitral win against China's "aggressive claims in the South China Sea."

"What is unlawful can never be made lawful by the whims and caprices of a foreign power which treats the entire South China Sea as its territory," Sotto said in a statement.

"We should never give up the fight for what is legally ours. We should never cower in fear from the harassment and political intimidation that foreign governments impose on us," he said.

"We should stand firm and prove that we as a nation remains united in our common desire to claim and protect our sovereign jurisdiction... We shall never and should not shut up into giving up our offshore treasures," he said.

Since 2012, China has been militarizing some areas within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. 

The world's second largest economy's Coast Guard and fishing fleet have also made it harder for Filipino fishermen to harvest resources in their traditional fishing grounds. 

Despite this, President Rodrigo Duterte continued to forge closer ties with China as his government pursued billions in foreign investments for his Build, Build, Build program.

Last month, Duterte halted his earlier decision to withdraw from the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States due to "heightened superpower tensions" and the global pandemic.

Earlier this week, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who had affirmed Philippine-Chinese ties in previous occasions, said that the West Philippine Sea award is "non-negotiable."