By Wilnard Bacelonia

BLOCKED. A much larger vessel of the Chinese Coast Guard blocks the path of the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) during a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal on June 30, 2023. On June 17, 2024, the CCG rammed a Philippine ship involved in a humanitarian mission to the BRP Sierra Madre stationed in Ayungin Shoal, severely injuring one Navy personnel. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) must strengthen its diplomatic mechanisms in dealing with the continued bullying and harassment by Chinese troops in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), several senators said on Thursday.

Senate President Francis Escudero, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Joel Villanueva made the call after watching the videos posted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) showing the China Coast Guard (CCG) “hijacking” the small boats of the Philippines conducting a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre.

“The DFA should go beyond the filing of diplomatic protests each time an incident occurs, and must explore every means to conduct a meaningful dialogue with their counterparts from Beijing with the end in view of avoiding further escalation, without giving up any of our rights and privileges in our claimed territory vis-a-vis theirs,” Escudero said in a statement.

He urged the AFP “to explore alternative methods” in delivering supplies to BRP Sierra Madre “so that our troops are properly resupplied while minimizing the risks and achieving our desired objectives.”

He said the Senate will be seeking for a full briefing from the DFA on the latest incident, as well as the efforts being undertaken to address this.

Pimentel also stressed that it is time to “push the button of diplomacy” after the incident.

Ang kalakasan ng Pilipinas, ang ganda ng reputation natin all over the world. Andami nating kaibigan, at sa international organizations, ganon din (The strength of the Philippines lies in our good reputation all over the world. We have many friends, same with international organizations). So, let us use our international connections like the International Red Cross,” he said in an interview.

Meanwhile, Villanueva described China’s latest action, and continuous bullying in the WPS as “sumosobra na (way too much).”

Hindi na rin po uubra ang paawa epek at pa-victim nila dahil kitang-kita naman po kung gaano sila walang respeto sa loob ng ating sariling teritoryo. Klaro naman po na ang Ayungin Shoal ay atin (Their excuses and playing as the victim will no longer work because it is obvious how disrespectful they are within our own territory. It is clear that Ayungin Shoal is ours),” he said in another statement.

Napakahalaga po na magkaisa tayong mga Pilipino sa labang ito (It is very important for Filipinos to be united in this fight). This and all other incidents provide an opportunity for Filipinos to unite and assert our rights in the West Philippine Sea more strongly than ever,” he said.

The senator thanked the Philippine Coast Guard, AFP, and Filipino fishermen in continuing to assert the country’s sovereignty in WPS, as well as the DFA and the National Mapping and Resource Information Agency for their leadership in this action. (PNA)