Press Release
April 13, 2021

Hontiveros demands China completely vacate Julian Felipe Reef, says China is becoming the region's biggest bully

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday once again expressed indignation against China's increasingly aggressive territorial expansion in the West Philippine Sea. According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, there are still 28 vessels in Julian Felipe Reef.

"We demanded that every single Chinese vessel leaves Philippine territory. Why are they still there? China is becoming the region's biggest bully. She exploited a global health crisis by executing a series of coordinated incursions into the WPS, and insisting her presence even after several diplomatic actions from our end," Hontiveros said.

"It only shows how China will do what she wants for her own selfish interest, even if it means threatening peace and stability in the region; even if it means attacking already vulnerable countries, including the Philippines," the senator said.

The Department of National Defense had ordered for all of China's vessels to evacuate Philippine territory, after over 200 ships gathered at the Julian Felipe Reef last March. The Department of Foreign Affairs then promised to lodge a diplomatic protest everyday until China's vessels vacate our seas. However, Beijing's ships have still been spotted within our Exclusive Economic Zone.

"At first, the Chinese Embassy claimed the vessels were just parking due to inclement weather. But Philippine authorities said there was no storm. Then it went as far as insisting that Julian Felipe Reef is Chinese territory. When will the lies, deception, and hypocrisy stop?" Hontiveros asked.

"Our coast guard should also immediately inspect what the Chinese vessels are doing there to see if our environmental and fisheries laws are being observed," the senator added.

This April, a Chinese Coast Guard Vessel and a People's Liberation Army Navy missile boat impeded a Philippine vessel from exercising the freedom of navigation guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - or UNCLOS - within the Philippine's EEZ.

"This is a direct challenge to the international rules-based order that has maintained stability in the region for so long. The use of a PLAN missile boat to shadow the Philippine vessel back to the Philippine coast signals a willingness to escalate the conflict with naval assets," Hontiveros said.

Due to the increasing tension in our waters, the senator said that the DND should deploy more naval assets, including the Philippine Coast Guard, to provide a protective umbrella for fisherfolk who want to venture out to sea. Hontiveros added that government must assure fisherfolk communities that our defense forces would be able to safeguard our fisherfolk's means of subsistence.

"We cannot allow ourselves to be kicked out of our own backyard. The West Philippine Sea is part of the patrimony of the Filipino people. Above and beyond considerations of access to resources, diplomacy, and geopolitics, our national dignity is at stake," Hontiveros concluded.

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