Re-electionist Senator Leila M. de Lima slammed China’s reiteration of its claim over Panatag Shoal, which is within the Philippine’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
De Lima maintained that China’s latest reiteration that its claim over Panatag Shoal is based on international law is “nothing more than a lie that if repeated several times, China hopes to become true.”
“Unfortunately for China, international law cannot be based on mere propaganda. There is nothing in international law that allows international waters to be owned as part of the territory not only of an adjacent country, much less one that is hundreds of kilometers away,” she said.
Reportedly, China recently warned the Philippines against “interfering” with its patrols at Panatag Shoal, baselessly claiming that China has sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the shoal and its adjacent waters.
The warning came after The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported that a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel came dangerously close to one of its patrol ships near the shoal in a “close distance maneuvering” incident on March 2.
De Lima noted that Panatag Shoal is within the Philippine 200 nautical mile EEZ, and in that portion that is not overlapped by any EEZ of any other country.
“As part of its EEZ, the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the exploration and exploitation of marine resources in Panatag Shoal.
“The Philippine EEZ is solidly based on an international treaty, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which China also signed and which it also uses to claim exclusive use of its own EEZ that surrounds its coastal areas,” she explained.
The China continues to deprive the Philippines the same right over its EEZ under UNCLOS by virtue of what De Lima called an “imaginary Nine-Dash Line” it has arbitrarily drawn on a map to claim the whole of the South China Sea (SCS), including Panatag Shoal and the Spratly Islands.
De Lima said the country does not even have to argue what international law is on the issue of Panatag Shoal because it has already been settled in the July 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) declaring that China’s Nine-Dash Line claim over the whole SCS as bereft of any legal basis under international law.
“China denies all these facts, of course, because one day it hopes to realize its claim over the South China Sea, Panatag Shoal, and the Spratly Islands not through international law, but through stealth or even force, just like what Russia did to Ukraine,” she said.
“Only then, China has to deal with the international backlash that comes with the illegal annexation of territories, similar to what Russia has to deal with now in its invasion of Ukraine,” she added.
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.