Press Release
January 26, 2021

Transcript of Sen. Francis N. Tolentino's privilege speech
Senate Session

Mr. President, on Wednesday, last week, I wholeheartedly engaged in an interpellation by way of interjection to our colleague from Zambales, relative to a Bill under consideration, which will be tackled today. I interjected points on maritime law and admiralty jurisdiction. That was last Wednesday.

Two days later, an important matter came to the attention of this representation, and my wish is that I will not be interpellated today for the first time because of my sincere belief that the answer to the questions will not emanate from me. The answers to the questions which I will post is lodged constitutionally in a separate office, commanded by the Constitution to resolve the issues that I will now raise, Mr. President.

Last Friday, the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China passed a law, the Coast Guard Law of the People's Republic of China. The law, for the first time explicitly allows its coast guard, under certain circumstances, to fire on foreign vessels, fishing boats, coast guard boats, naval boats, or any peace-seeking NGO boats to defend China's maritime rights and interests. This law will take effect on February 1, six (6) days from now.

I am bringing this to the attention of this august body because a lot of our fishermen are out there. Some of our fishermen, including those from Zambales, Mindoro, Palawan, Batangas, and Cavite, will go fishing not knowing the existence of this newly passed law by the National People's Congress of China, allowing its coast guard to take, and I quote, "all necessary measures including the use of weapons when national sovereignty rights and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea." The law is very specific. It specifies the circumstances under which the different kinds of weapons - handheld (I'm referring to pistols or rifles), shipborne missiles, or airborne coming from planes - can be used.

Another important point, the law as passed allows the Chinese coast guard personnel to demolish other countries' structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs and to board and inspect vessels in waters claimed by China.

Mr. President, I worry for our fishermen from Zambales, Cavite, Batangas, Mindoro, and the rest of the eastern seaboard, who will venture out into that coast. The law further provides that the Chinese coast guard is empowered to set up temporary exclusion zones. These are lockdown zones as needed to stop other vessels and personnel from entering.

What are the ramifications? I have no answers, Mr. President. That's why I do not wish to be interpellated. I just want to bring this to the attention of this august body because my answers, my cures, probably, will be worse than the disease.

Nakakalungkot po ito, Mr. President. Nakakatakot. How I wish, as one of my favorite TV shows was entitled "Wish Ko Lang," that we were back during pre-COVID days. Nakakalabas lahat, walang face shield, walang kinakatakutan, walang bakuna, walang droplets. How I wish we are in the pre-COVID days of December of 2019. How I wish, in the international scene, we are on the pre-nine-dash line days. Lahat nakakapangisda, lahat nakakapalaot. Walang kinakatakutan, walang pinangangambahan, walang gigibain, walang haharangin, walang kakatakutan.

What will be the solution, Mr. President? I really do not know. The diplomatic front? The ASEAN, perhaps? The new Biden presidency? A direct engagement with the President of the People's Republic of China? I do not know, Mr. President.

Let me end by quoting John Denver, one of my favorite singers, in his song entitled "Children of the Universe." I quote:

The silver dolphins twist and dance
And sing to one another
The cosmic ocean knows no bounds
For all that lives are brothers

How I wish, Mr. President, that all those who are engaged in the West Philippine Sea are to be treated and be considered as brothers. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

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