By Jose Cielito Reganit

TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY. Chinese vessels trespass on Iroquois Reef, a body of water within the West Philippine Sea (WPS), as seen in this aerial photo taken on Sept. 7, 2023. House of Representatives Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said Thursday (Dec. 7) they are committed to protecting the territorial integrity of the Philippines in the WPS. (Photo from AFP Wescom)

MANILA – The House of Representatives is committed to protecting the territorial integrity of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), especially from the illegal activities and incursions of China against Filipino fishermen and security forces patrolling the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said Thursday.

“The House is committed to do everything in its power to protect our rights in the WPS. We fully support our troops and our Coast Guard patrolling our exclusive economic zone against China’s vessels that turn away our fishermen with a legal right to fish in the WPS,” Romualdez said in a statement.

“We also commit to enhancing our defense posture in the WPS through legislation and by exercising Congress’s power of the purse. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Philippine Navy will have whatever support they need.”

He pointed out that their commitment was manifested in their adoption of House Resolution 1494, condemning China’s “illegal actions” in the WPS and urging the government to uphold and defend sovereign rights over the nation’s EEZ and continental shelf under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

According to the resolution, China’s illegal activities include harassment, shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuvers, and radio challenges; unilateral imposition of a fishing moratorium; unauthorized conduct of marine scientific research activities; incessant and unlawful restriction of Filipino fishermen from conducting legitimate fishing activities in Bajo de Masinloc; and harassment of Philippine boats in Ayungin Shoal.

It added that China’s actions against the Philippines’ routine and regular rotation and resupply (RORE) missions to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal have become “more dangerous.”

“The Philippines should continue to assert and fight for its rights in the West Philippine Sea and uphold and implement its hard-earned victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, the Netherlands,” the resolution said.

It also emphasized that the Philippine government must strengthen its ability to patrol and protect the country’s maritime zones by building a self-reliant defense posture program and upgrading the capabilities of the PCG.

“In order to have a credible defense posture and a capable PCG, the government must boost the funds allocated to our armed troops and our civilian maritime patrol forces,” the resolution added. (PNA)