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Philippine Senate passes resolution condemning China over South China Sea harassment

China flag. (Unsplash)
September 14, 2023

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

The Philippine Senate voted unanimously Tuesday on a resolution condemning China for its “continued harassment” of Filipino fishermen and “incursions” into Manila’s waters in the contested South China Sea.

The resolution also urged the government to raise the issue of Beijing’s actions in the strategic waterway before the United Nations General Assembly. These allegedly violate a 2016 international arbitration ruling that nullified Beijing’s expansive claims to the potentially mineral-rich sea.

“It is hereby resolved by the Senate of the Philippines to strongly condemn the continued harassment of Filipino fishermen and the incursions in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese coast guard and militia vessels,” the resolution said, according to a copy obtained by reporters.

The West Philippine Sea is the name that Filipinos use for waters claimed by Manila in the South China Sea.

The resolution urged the Philippine government to take appropriate action “in asserting and securing the country’s sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf,” in the South China Sea.

The final resolution consolidated two authored separately by Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

“This bipartisan effort tells the Filipino people that when it comes to matters of national sovereignty, we will never be bullied into submission,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“The fight against China’s reckless behavior in the West Philippine Sea does not end here,” she said. 

Hontiveros said she hoped that with the resolution, Manila would take the necessary steps to “consolidate” global support for the 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia, to name a few, have hailed the ruling, but Beijing has continued to ignore it. 

On Monday, Ursula von der Leyen, the visiting president of the European Commission, said the European Union backed the “legally binding” ruling.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have territorial claims in the South China Sea. While Indonesia does not regard itself as a party to these disputes, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of that sea overlapping Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

The Senate resolution also urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to bring international attention to continued violations of The Hague ruling.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., though, appears disinterested in involving the U.N.

“Generally speaking, foreign policy is not set by the legislature. Generally speaking, foreign policy is left up to the executive,” he told reporters last week.

“The United Nations entertains governments, not parts of government. They deal with governments.”