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Senator says Duterte must do more than ‘lip service’ in West Philippine Sea assertion

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PHILSTAR/EPA

A SENATOR on Friday said President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s “long-overdue” assertion of the country’s ownership of the West Philippine Sea is mere “lip service” without corresponding actions against China.

“It is unacceptable that four years on, this administration still cannot simply favor the Philippines’ interest. This only makes the president’s pronouncement look like lip service to the idea of sovereignty,” Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a webinar.

Mr. Duterte, in his speech before the 75th United Nations General Assembly earlier this week, invoked for the first time the Philippines’ legal victory over the disputed waters.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, however, said on Thursday that the Duterte administration will “will move on matters that we could move forward” such as trade and investment deals with China.

“Saying that we recognize the arbitral ruling is not enough. This should be followed by concrete actions,” Ms. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in the online forum organized by the International Development Security Cooperation, WR Numero Research, and Analyzing War.

The senator said the government must take steps such as protecting Filipino fishermen and beefing up military presence in the country’s exclusive zone.

“We must resume operations against the poaching in our Exclusive Economic Zone, escort and protect our fishing vessels, reinforce our presence and facilities on the features we occupy, join joint patrols with other nations in the West Philippine Sea,” she said.

The United States in July announced an “updated policy” on the South China Sea, expressing strong rejection of Beijing’s claim.

US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, in a statement on Aug. 26, further said, “In July, I announced an updated policy regarding Beijing’s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea and emphasized that the United States was prepared to take firm action to oppose Beijing’s campaign of bullying.”

France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have also submitted a joint Note Verbale to the United Nations challenging the legality of China’s claims in the disputed waters.

China claims about 90% of theSouth China Sea, a major shipping route and potentially oil-rich.

Aside from the Philippines, other claimants include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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