Fisherfolk lauds arbitration decision;
calls to intensify the claim on West Philippine Sea
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) urged President Rodrigo Duterte to tighten the control and claim on the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS) after the arbitration court based in The Hague favors the Philippines’ claim on the disputed waters.
“It is official, the West Philippine Sea is our and ours alone. This is a victory not only for us fisherfolk but also for us as a nation. We have stood up against the bullying and garnered support in the process.” Salvador France, vice chairperson of Pamalakaya-Pilipinas, said in a statement.
Yesterday, the International Permanent Court of Arbitration came tremendously in favor of the case forwarded by the Philippines against the claim and actions of the Peoples Republic of China with respect to the South China Sea. It ruled that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within its claimed nine dash line. The international tribunal also found China in violation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), specifically with respect to the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by interfering with fishing and petroleum operation, constructing artificial islands, and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.
Beijing has repeatedly said that it won’t comply with the International Tribunal Court as it maintains its claim that South China Sea is an indisputable sovereignty. Through its 9-dash line assumption, China aggressively claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes every year and is a home to abundant marine products endowed with untapped oil and gas reserves.
“We are now on the next stage of this battle; we should be vigilant for possible aggressive responses from China in the wake of this decision. Until our fishers and our flag dominate the West Philippine Sea, this is far from over,” France added.
Some analysts agree that China could intensify its defense systems in the West Philippine Sea in defiance to the international tribunal’s decision favoring Philippines as the legal claimant of the disputed waters.
Pamalakaya also insists for a peaceful but principled resolution on the West Philippine Sea issue.
“Engaging in a violent war against China is the last thing we want. Our fishers have been devastated as it is, and our natural resources in distraught. We will assert our rightful claim in the WPS in any peaceful way possible. Active diplomacy through bilateral and multilateral talks with China and other claimants of the disputed waters is the best chance we have, provided these are founded upon the framework of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the recent The Hague decision, and advanced in mutual respect.” France added.
The fisherfolk group calls to heighten vigilance not only to some forces in China who are against the international arbitration but also to saboteurs of a peaceful conclusion of the sea row.
The fisherfolk pinned the United States (U.S.) as the single largest hindrance towards a peaceful resolution and urges the latter to unconditionally withdraw and pull out all its military forces and facilities in the Philippines as it has now nothing to do with the dispute.
“Now that the decision of the international tribunal has come out, there is no reason that will justify the U.S. military forces’ presence in the archipelago.”
“The international tribunal’s decision is an initial victory for the Filipino people who have tirelessly fought for the national sovereignty and territorial integrity. We call on the Filipino people to remain steadfast on patriotism and nationalism in the name of defending the country from any aspects of foreign domination.”France ended. ###