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Senators blast latest harassment in West Philippine Sea

MANILA, Philippines — Senators have condemned the latest acts of harassment in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese, particularly their attempt to stop the evacuation of a sick sailor from the BRP Sierra Madre to a hospital and their disruption of a research activity by UP marine scientists in Escoda Shoal.

The two incidents “would show the horizontal escalation of China’s tactics,” Senate majority leader Francis Tolentino said yesterday.

The disruption of the medical mission was a “clear violation of existing international humanitarian laws” while the Escoda Shoal incident “shows their attempt to cover up the environmental damage in the shoal area,” Tolentino said.

The senator urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to file a case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to seek damages for China’s environmental depredation in Escoda Shoal. “We ask the DFA and the OSG to act fast,” Tolentino said.

Sen. Joel Villanueva, for his part, urged the DFA to file another diplomatic protest “to add to our already 159 diplomatic protests filed as of May 2024, since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumed office,” or relay the issue directly to China in bilateral talks.

“This will show not only China but the whole world that we are dead serious in claiming what is rightfully ours,” Villanueva said.

“We continue to call on each and every Filipino to be united in fighting against what the President succinctly described as the ‘illegal, coercive, aggressive and deceptive’ aggression and propaganda of China,” he added.

Sen. JV Ejercito called the actions by the China Coast Guard (CCG) “inhumane” and “heartless” as they “put lives at risk and show a complete lack of care for people’s well-being.”

“China’s lack of compassion is shown by its cruel actions, such as blocking essential supplies for our troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal and interfering with the evacuation of sick Filipino marines,” Ejercito said.

“I reiterate that China must respect Philippines’ maritime activities in the area and refrain from engaging in actions that escalate tensions and jeopardize peace and stability in the region,” he added.