Makabayan bloc seeks House probe of Ayungin Shoal incident

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2021 01:25 PM | Updated as of Nov 23 2021 02:49 PM

MANILA - The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives on Monday filed House Resolution 2370 for the chamber to condemn and probe the recent action of China's coast guard against Filipino supply boats at the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea.

“It is the duty of Congress to ensure that our territorial integrity is intact, local and international laws be honored and recognized, and more importantly, the safety and economic rights of people are protected and ensured," the Makabayan lawmakers said in the resolution.

"It is also the duty of Congress and all patriotic Filipinos to defend our territories from foreign dominance and intrusion.”

The bloc is composed of Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.

The resolution is directed at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, tasking it to “condemn and conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the November 16, 2021 Ayungin Shoal incident wherein Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and water-cannoned Filipino supply boats en route to a supply mission inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.”

“As a result, the AFP’s Western Command in Palawan reported the supply boats had to abort their supply mission,” read the resolution.

HR 2370 cited as well the claim of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian in a press briefing last Nov. 18 that the "two Philippine supply boats trespassed into waters near Ren'ai Jiao of China's Nansha Qundao without China's consent.“

The Makabayan lawmakers noted that the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague already nullified China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea in 2016.

They said the Ayungin Shoal incident is “but another manifestation of China's increasing aggression and arrogance in claiming and annexing Philippine waters and territories."

"These past years have witnessed how China converted Philippine seas and fishing grounds into military installations, how China bullied and threatened Filipino fisherfolk out of their own fishing grounds, and, how China openly plundered or destroyed the country’s maritime resources," they added.

The Philippines' resupply mission successfully returned on Tuesday to the Ayungin Shoal. Government forces stationed there are staying aboard the dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre that has been stuck in the area since 1999.

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Beijing will no longer interfere after his conversations with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian.

Ayungin is among nine features in the Kalayaan Island Group occupied by the Philippines. The eight others are Parola Island, Pag-asa Island, Kota Island, Panata Island, Likas Island, Lawak Island, Patag Island and Rizal Reef.

Presidential Decree 1596, issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos on June 11, 1978, created the Kalayaan municipality and named the area as Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).

The 2016 arbitral ruling also affirmed that Ayungin Shoal is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, over which the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, according to Jay Batongbacal, Director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

Manila has filed over 200 diplomatic notes against Beijing since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016 amid continuing Chinese incursions in Philippines waters, according to the DFA.

Duterte, in the early years of his six-year term, set aside the arbitral ruling as he forged friendlier relations with China to get economic aid and investments. Last May, he described the 2016 award as a mere piece of paper that he will throw in the wastebasket.

But on Monday, he said at the ASEAN-China Special Summit, "We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments. This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership."

The European Union, Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the United States have also expressed concern over the recent incident at the Ayungin Shoal, stressing the importance of peace and stability in the South China Sea, within which is the West Philippine Sea.


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