The chairperson of the House committee of the national defense and security on Thursday called on government to send its own fishing fleet to disputed territories in the West Philippine (South China) Sea.
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, who once served as Philippine military chief, said the fleet is one way of asserting the country’s claim to disputed islands in West Philippine Sea.
“I am recommending that Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries ships go back to those territories and show our flag. We should also organize Filipino fishermen to comprise a fishing fleet, to be escorted by the Philippine Navy if necessary,” Biazon said in a press briefing.
The lawmaker’s proposal came after at least 20 Chinese fishing boats reportedly congregated in a portion of the Spratly Islands.
The Spratlys is a string of atolls and islands straddling vital shipping lanes in the West Philippine Sea and is believed sitting atop vast mineral deposits. It is being claimed in whole or in part by China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The Philippines is also locking horns with China for the past three months over ownership of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, 124 nautical miles off Zambales.
Lodge protests vs. China
Biazon urged the Department of Foreign Affairs not to let China get away with encroachments on Philippine territory.
“At any time China commits an act in violation of international law, we must always file a protest,” he said.
Lodging these diplomatic protests will cement the country’s claims over disputed territories under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he added.
“Kasi kung pupunta tayo sa UN, tatanungin tayo kung ano ang ginagawa natin… The UNCLOS favors us. Let us focus our attention there,” he said.
The Philippines uses UNCLOS as basis of its sovereignty over portions of Spratly Islands, while China bases its claim on historical data.
The lawmaker, however, said that both the Philippines and China should make sure that the territorial dispute is settled through peaceful means.
“Pinipilit ninyong hilahin ang usapin sa giyera, pero ang usapin ay dapat sa UN. Hindi sa giyera. Hindi ito palakihan ng barko,” he said.
Still, Biazon said the UN should be ready to send peacekeeping forces to the West Philippine Sea if tensions in the area escalate. — VS, GMA News