Re-electionist Senator Leila M. de Lima bewailed the reported close distance maneuvering of a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel during the maritime patrol operations of a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship in Bajo de Masinloc early this month.
De Lima maintained that the government should not only condemn the recent occurrence, but seriously do something to stop the CCG from violating the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
“We have to exercise our exclusive authority in Bajo de Masinloc, which is within our Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea. The reported ‘close distance maneuvering’ by a China Coast Guard vessel on the PCG vessel BRP Malabrigo is a cause of great concern,” she said.
“This is not the first time that this kind of incident occurred. Kaya maliban sa sinasabing pag-imbestiga sa mga ganitong insidente, ano ba ang polisiya o mga hakbang ng gobyerno para matiyak na maiwasan ang ganitong pangyayari na nagdudulot ng panganib sa mga kababayan nating mangingisda at mga tauhan ng PCG?” she added.
In a statement by the PCG released last March 27, they said that the incident occurred last March 2, while one of its ships, the BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) was patrolling the area of Scarborough Shoal, locally known as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc.
The Chinese ship “with bow No. 3305… conducted a close distance maneuvering of approximately 21 yards toward BRP Malabrigo,” the PCG reportedly said, noting that this constrained the maneuvering space of its vessel, which was a violation of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
PCG Commandant Adm. Artemio Abu confirmed that this was the fourth incident involving CCG ships at Bajo de Masinloc.
The lady Senator from Bicol said she hopes that the alarming incident “would finally prompt the administration to take a stronger and firmer stand on matters involving our rights in the WPS.”
De Lima earlier said that the WPS issue should be in the top 5 of presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates’ platforms for the 2022 polls as it proves their priority to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
In a landmark ruling on July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) found no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to a “nine-dash line” in the WPS but China refused to honor the ruling.
De Lima, who was then justice secretary, was part of the Philippine delegation who argued the Philippines’ case before the PCA.
Last year, she filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 694 urging the government’s Executive branch to exert all legal and diplomatic actions on the Chinese government in asserting Philippine sovereign rights in the WPS.
De Lima is also among the 11 Senators who filed SR No. 708 urging the Upper Chamber to “condemn in the strongest possible terms” the illegal activities of China in the disputed waters.