MANILA – Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero on Monday urged the government to immediately convene the National Security Council (NSC) to map out plans in the face of China’s aggression over the West Philippine Sea.
Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the government must push through with the arbitration process of the territorial dispute, and this must be done in coherence with all key players, starting with the government.
“It might indeed be best to convene the NSC in order to bring everybody in the loop given that this is an issue facing our country and people regardless of political affiliation,” Escudero said in a press statement.
Under Executive Order No. 115, the NSC is the principal advisory body of the President on the proper coordination and integration of plans and policies affecting national security.
Escudero supports the government’s position to defend the country’s claim over parts of the potentially oil-rich South China Sea, which are also claimed in parts by Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.
“We are well within our rights and claims. We should not give up our rights and in fact, we should assert our sovereignty. This is why convening the NSC is fundamental to address this issue,” the lawmaker said.
“All branches of the government must work together in unison. We bring the best minds, the soundest judgment, and the best intentions for the country to stand at its best on an issue that is every Filipino’s claim,” he pointed out.
China has been relentless in taking control of most parts of the disputed areas through reclamation works and construction of military facilities.
Last week, Filipino fishermen were water cannoned by a Chinese vessel to drive them away from the Scarborough Shoal.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also said they have photographs taken by satellites to show that China has aggressively built infrastructures on reefs and islets, including airstrips and key military facilities.
The senator said it is imperative that the government bring the issue to the proper forum through diplomatic means.
He said getting international attention and support from the United States and regional partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will definitely play an important role in keeping China at bay.
“International attention and support will play a key role to pressure China to conform to international laws and practices. It could also temper them from their bullying tactics and convince them to resolve the matter peacefully,” Escudero said.