Mar 172015

A party-list lawmaker has urged President Benigno Aquino III to convene the National Security Council immediately amid China’s creeping aggression in reclaiming areas in the West Philippine Sea.

In a privilege speech Monday night, Magdalo party-list Rep. Ashley Acedillo sounded the alarm on China’s swift and silent reclamation activities in the disputed swath of waters, which he said present an “existential threat” to the country’s territory, sovereignty and economic well-being.

Photos Acedillo obtained showed China’s reclamation and construction activities in territories within the West Philippine Sea have been continuous, with various reefs and islets being expanded humongous structures built on them.

Most alarming of China’s reclamation activities he said, are occurring on Mischief Reef. 

“Walang sinabi ang Philippine reclamation efforts sa Roxas Boulevard at ang pagtatayo ng SM Mall of Asia kumpara sa ginagawa ng Tsina sa West Philippine Sea,” Acedillo said, while showing photos of Chinese Navy ships guarding the structure. 

Blockade of Ayungin shoal

He warned that Chinese forces might stay in the structures being built in the West Philippine Sea and block the ships that supply the Philippine Marines guarding the nearby Ayungin Shoal, which is only 50 kilometers away from Mischief Reef. 

The lawmaker, a former military officer, warned that China might be able to successfully enforce a blockade on Ayungin Shoal if its efforts are not thwarted. Such a move, he said, will result in the Philippines losing control of the shoal since the Philippine Marine troops guarding it will be forced to withdraw.

“Let us remember that Ayungin is less than 50 kilometers away from the Chinese-controlled Mischief Reef, and the country is now in even graver danger— the Chinese can easily cut off our Marine detachment in Ayungin from the rest of Palawan which is still roughly 400 kilometers away,” he said. 

Acedillo called on the President to convene the NSC promptly to map out a plan to address China’s aggressive reclamation activities since relying on the tripartite action plan pushed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is a “no action plan” that is compelling other agencies such as the Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard not to act on the threat.

The DFA’s tripartite action plan involves arbitration, diplomatic protest, and prodding other Southeast Asian nations to support an enforceable Code of Conduct (COC) in the disputed territories. 

“Mark my words … when the Chinese forts and garrisons become online later this year or early next year, tell me if I will be the Boy Who Cried Wolf,” he said. “For I tell you, the wolves will come, and they will come, and they will be from China.”

New round of clashes

The NSC is the President’s advisory body on domestic, foreign and military policies concerning national security. The council proper is chaired by the President and includes concerned officials of the Cabinet and Congress as its members.

Acedillo advised the government against relying solely on the United Nations International Tribunal to hand its verdict on the complaint filed by the Philippine government against China, saying the country’s efforts might suffer a setback if another controversy erupts. 

“Some analysts fear that a major discovery of oil or natural gas may again spark another round of clashes in a region lacking the mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of such disputes – and with the United States providing merely mixed signals of either facilitating conflict resolution  or an outright confrontation with China,” he said.

The DFA has completed all the requirements needed at the United Nations Tribunal for the arbitration of the Philippines’ case against China. It expects the UN decide on the case in 2016. —NB, GMA News

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