Hontiveros alarmed over China’s new law on South China Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 25) - Senator Risa Hontiveros expressed alarm over the law that China recently passed authorizing its coast guard to "take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea."

Hontiveros said this can only harm efforts to solve the South China Sea dispute through political and diplomatic means.

"China should ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea, not escalate them," she said.

"Ibig sabihin ba ng bagong batas ng Tsina, this Coast Guard Law passed on 22nd January... the next time na gusto nilang ilubog ang fishing vessel natin, o iwan ang mangingisda natin sa dagat, hindi lang sila sasagasaan, babarilin pa?" Hontiveros added.

[Translation: Does it mean that China's new law, this Coast Guard Law passed on 22nd January... the next time they want to sink our fishing vessels or leave our fishermen in the middle of the ocean, they will not only bump them but shoot them as well?]

The senator said the Philippines should continue to assert the arbitral tribunal ruling on the West Philippine Sea.

Hontiveros added the Philippine government should also ensure the COVID-19 vaccines it will buy from China will not put our national interest at risk.

"We must not allow China to shake our hand on vaccine procurement, but stab us in the back on the West Philippine Sea," she said.

"Paano natin ngayon masisigurado na ang mga bakunang bibilhin natin o ibibigay ng Tsina ay walang halong kapalit?" she explained.

[Translation: How are we going to make sure that the vaccines we will purchase or China will give us do not have something in return?]

Hontiveros said the Department of National Defense needs to have a strategy should the situation at the West Philippine Sea worsen amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said the new Chinese law is a "sobering reminder to the world that China remains adamant in pressing its illegal claims in the South China Sea, now with force and probably with violence."

He added this reminds Filipinos that despite the so-called friendly approach of the Duterte administration towards China, its plans to take over our waters and put our soldiers' lives at risk will not go away.

"In the face of this new Chinese aggression, we should prioritize what we have been saying before: build a credible defense posture for our country and strengthen our security alliance with freedom-loving nations like the US, the countries comprising the EU, Japan, Australia, and our ASEAN neighbors," Del Rosario said in a statement.