west philippine sea

Sen. Bam: Inagaw na nga ang ating isla, pati buhangin gusto pang angkinin

Re-electionist Sen. Bam Aquino stressed the need to probe the entry of an African-flagged dredging ship with Chinese crew in Lobo River in Batangas, saying the incident is a clear encroachment of the country’s internal seas.

“Inagaw na nga nila ang mga isla natin, pati ba naman buhangin, gusto pa nlang angkinin,” said Sen. Bam, referring to a report that the sand that will be extracted from the Lobo River will be used for the expansion of the Hong Kong airport.

“Nakakaalarma ang insidenteng ito dahil malinaw na ito’y panghihimasok na sa karagatang sakop ng Pilipinas,” Sen. Bam pointed out, adding that he plans to file a resolution investigating the matter.

MV Emerald, a Sierra Leone-flagged dredging ship, managed to get an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) through a Filipino firm to operate before it was suspended recently by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

However, the ship lacked a permit to operate and a permit to transport from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and a permit to dredge from the local government of Lobo, Batangas.

Sen. Bam suggested that the ship is only a Trojan Horse, pretending to undertake a normal business operation for siltation removal, but its main agenda is to take sand from the country’s waters to be used for other purposes.

“Hindi natin dapat palampasin ang insidenteng ito at dapat alamin kung sinu-sino ang nasa likod nito at kung bakit ito hinayaang makapasok sa bansa nang ganun-ganun na lang,” said Sen. Bam.

In addition, Sen. Bam underscore the need to protect the area, known in the global scientific community as Verde Island Passage, since it is considered as the center of the center of marine shore fish biodiversity in the world, with 60 percent of the world’s shore fish species live in these waters between Batangas and Mindoro.

“Magpakita sana ng puwersa ang ating mga awtoridad para malaman ng buong mundo na hindi tayo magpapabraso sa mga nais magnakaw ng ating likas na yaman,” Sen. Bam added.

Sen. Bam to gov’t: Put welfare, livelihood Filipino fishermen first

Re-electionist Sen. Bam Aquino prodded the administration to defend Filipino fishermen following reports that some of them were prevented by Chinese vessels from fishing or landing on the sandbars around Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

In a media interview in Pangasinan, Sen. Bam emphasized that the government should have acted earlier on the issue of harassment of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

“Matagal na pong isyu iyan at matagal na dapat itong inaksiyunan ng gobyerno,” said Sen. Bam, who is eyeing a second term under the Otso Diretso slate.

“Ang hinahanap ng mga Pilipino ay isang gobyerno na sila yung kakampi, palagay ko mahalaga na i-raise na ito formally ng ating gobyerno at huwag nang daanin pa sa pakiusapan,” the senator added.

If Sen. Bam will have his way, he said a formal complaint regarding the harassment of Filipino fishermen by Chinese vessels in Philippine waters should be lodged before multilateral organizations so the issue could be threshed out.

“Kailangang makita naman ng ating mga kababayan na kinakampihan ng gobyerno ang kapwa Pilipino. Hindi po iyong parang mas pinapaboran pa iyong ibang mga bansa,” Sen. Bam emphasized.

On September 19, 2016, Sen. Bam filed Resolution No. 158 seeking to clarify the country’s foreign policy direction and determine the administration’s position on several issues, including the West Philippine Sea, Benham Rise and other dealings with China.

Sen. Bam’s Privilege Speech on China issues

Magandang araw, Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, majority floor leader! Magandang, magandang  hapon po sa inyong lahat!

To quote a very popular love song, a picture paints a thousand words.

Well, this particular picture inspired a thousand memes and thousands of comments.

Several of our countrymen raised their eyebrows and voiced their confusion and outrage.

Sabi nga ho ni Defense Sec. Lorenzana “Maybe Malacañang thinks that it is correct dahil ginawa nila yun. Do not torture our minds about giving meaning to these very trivial things.”

Well, Mr. President, marami po sa mga kababayan natin, hindi naisip na trivial iyong pagkawala ng ating bandila sa pagdating ni President Xi Jinping.

Hindi naman siguro masamang tanungin kung may violation nga ba o hindi iyong ginawang pagparada sa bandila ng China, na wala po ang ating three stars and a sun.

To be honest, Mr. President, the pivot to China opened a Pandora’s Box of questions regarding the Philippines’ dealings with a powerful and more domineering neighbor.

These, dear friends, are questions and concerns that have already been raised in the past 2 years, even before the 2-day state visit of China’s president.

Hindi rin naman sigurong masamang magtanong tungkol sa sarili nating teritoryo, sa sarili po nating karagatan na mas malawak pa sa kabuuan ng ating lupain at naglalaman ng sang-katutak na isda, langis at iba pang kayamanan – kayamanang pag-aari ng ating taumbayan.

Ngayon napanalo na ng Pilipinas ang kaso laban sa China sa International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas o ITLOS at kinlaro na sa mundo ang ating exclusive economic zone sa West Philippine Sea, anu-ano ang paraan kung paano po mapoprotektahan itong sariling atin?

Just to remind everyone, based on satellite photos obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in February 2018, China appeared to be in the final stages of constructing air and naval bases in seven reefs in the Spratlys Region, including Mischief or Panganiban and Subi or Zamora Reefs, over which the Philippines has exclusive right and jurisdiction as ruled by the UN Tribunal.

Worse, last May 2018, US Intelligence reports revealed that China had installed anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles on these reefs. Again, let me clarify Mr. President, these are missiles installed within our own country – within the Philippines’ jurisdiction.

To this incident, President Duterte was quoted in saying: “In the play of politics, now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling. I will not impose anything on China.”

However, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Peter Cayetano said: “We have to put aside our territorial and sovereign rights claims but not abandon them. The preliminary agreement is based on: let’s cooperate first, and let’s talk about who owns what, and who has jurisdiction, later on.”

Clearly, Mr. President, mayroon talagang paglilinaw na dapat gawin sa ating pakikitungo sa China.

Napakahalaga rin kwestyunin ang legalidad ng militarization ng China sa West Philippine Sea.

Uulitin ko po, mayroon Chinese air and naval bases sa loob ng ating karagatan. Mayroon pong anti-ship at surface-to-air missiles ang China sa loob ng karagatan ng Pilipinas.

Ang isa sa mga tinayuan ng Chinese military base ay ang Mischief o Panganiban Reef na 250 kilometers lang ang layo sa Palawan. Ito’y kasing layo ng Baguio sa dito ngayon sa Senado – a 4-hour drive ang layo.  In fact, kung iisipin natin, 250 kilometers mayroon nang missiles at armas dito.

I will also clarify that Article XVIII, Section 25 of our 1987 Constitution it states that – and I quote – “…foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.” – end quote.

That said, is it not prohibited under the Philippine Constitution to consent to the presence of Chinese air and naval bases, now armed with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, unless a treaty is signed with China? Hindi naman siguro masamang usisain ang legalidad ng mga military base na ito.

Ito pong isyu na ito, diretso po sa tingin po namin, ang contradiction sa ating Saligang Batas. Mahalaga po na maklaro agad kung mayroon ngang violation sa ating Constitution ang pagpayag dito sa China air bases sa ating teritoryo.

This leads us to even more painful and personal questions – mga tanong tungkol sa pang-aabuso ng mga mangingisdang Pilipino, sa pananakot sa ating media at mga reporter, at sa pagbibigay ng trabaho sa mga Tsino imbis na mga Pilipino.

Just last November 8, China stopped a Filipino TV crew from conducting interviews in the West Philippine Sea, stating that the Filipino reporters cannot proceed without the permission of China.

Ang sabi ng isang miyembro ng Chinese Coast Guard kay Jun Veneracion ng Reporters’ Notebook: “Without the permission of China, you cannot carry out the interview here.”

Earlier this year, on May 20, a video showed two men boarding the boat of a Filipino fisherman.

Sinabi po ng ating mangingisda: “Wala po silang paalam. Halungkatin nila ‘yun, basta maghalungkat sila, Sir. Kukunin nila ‘yung gusto nila. Ilagay nila sa plastic, magaganda pa ang kunin nila.” I’m assuming that he’s talking about the fish na hinuli ng ating mangingisda.

Sabi pa ni Manong Rony, na isa ring mangingisda: “Sa tingin ko po parang sila rin ang boss dito. Sila po ang nasusunod eh. Wala po kaming magagawa kung sabihin nilang aalis kami. Wala kaming power na ipaglaban ‘yung sarili namin. Batas din nila yung nasusunod dito sa Scarborough.” (Reporter’s Notebook)

Hindi naman po masamang tanungin kung tama ba itong nangyayari sa ating media, kung tama ba ang nangyayari sa ating mangingisda, sa ating mga kababayan sa sarili po nating teritoryo.

Punta rin tayo Build-Build-Build na malaki ang koneksiyon sa China.

Ilang proyekto na ang nabigyan ng go-signal?

Ilan na po ba ang nasimulan na?

Kailan po ba matatapos ang mga ito?

Anong part ng Build-Build-Build program ang uutangin sa China?

Ano ang napagkasunduang terms at interest rate?

Kasama ba sa kontrata na mga Tsino at hindi Pilipino ang magtatrabaho sa mga proyektong ito?

Ilang trabaho ba ang nakalaan talaga sa mga kababayan nating Pilipino?

So far, Mr. President, this is what we do know:

One: In 2016, the President visited China and came home with $24 Billion of Chinese loans and investment pledges for Build Build Build. So far, only 2 bridge projects worth 62.28 million U.S. dollars, and these are grants, and one irrigation project worth 62.09 million U.S. dollars are ongoing.

Second: The government’s Pipeline of Programs and Project for Official Development Assistance as of September 28, 2018 includes 16 projects that will be funded with loans from China amounting to a total of 740.45 Billion Pesos.

Three, Mr. President: Chinese loans are not only “tied” loans or loans with conditions, but they have a higher interest rate roughly anywhere up to 3% than the “untied” loans we are getting from other countries like Japan.

Isang Pandora’s Box po talaga ang nabukas dito po sa ating pagkiling natin sa China.

At mga kaibigan, kailangan talagang maklaro sa ating mga kababayan ang mga sagot sa mga tanong na ito.

Pagdating sa paglaban sa ating teritoryo, pagdating sa paglaban para sa ating mangingisda, pagdating po sa mga proyekto na posible pong pumasok sa ating bansa at narinig na rin natin ng debt trap gaya ng Sri Lanka na kung saan iyong mga bansang nabaon sa utang ay nangangailangan na magbigay o magpaubaya ng kanilang kasarinlan.

Isa pong Pandora’s Box ng mga tanong mga kaibigan, at tingin ko po ang Senado ay may kapangyarihan at mayroong tungkulin na isara ang isyung ito , na sagutin ang mga isyung ito tungkol sa China sa pamamagitan ng paghanap at paghingi ng makatotohanang mga sagot.

The Senate does not only have the power and privilege to search for these answers; we have a duty to shed light on these issues and ensure that the government is in the favor of the Filipino people and not in favor of China in its dealings.

Mr. President, let me share a short history lesson. In September of 1991, Philippine senators made history by ending years of U.S. military presence in the Philippines, even when many believed that the presence of U.S. bases was good for livelihood and for the economy, and, therefore, in the best interest of the Filipino people.

It was a difficult decision then, Mr. President. Sen. Gordon is here, my aunt President Cory Aquino was on the side of retaining the US bases. But the Senate at that time, Mr. President, made a fateful decision.  To this day, that decision is lauded as one that upheld the independence of our country.

Ngayon po, tinatawag tayo muli ang Senado na mamuno at pumanig sa kapwa nating Pilipino. We are again called to take the lead in terms of transparency, sovereignty and national security.

Umaasa po kami na kaya po ng Senado na klaruhin ang mga tanong na ito upang mapanatag naman ang kalooban ng ating mga kababayan na sa ating teritoryo, para sa ating kabuhayan, trabaho, imprastruktura, mga kontrata at mga benepisyo – sigurado po na dapat una ang Pilipino at panalo ang Pilipino dito sa sarili nating bansa at sa anumang pakikitungo sa anumang bansa dito sa ating mundo.

Umaasa ang ating mga kababayan na dito sa Pilipinas, mauuna ang Pilipino.

Let the Senate hopefully, Mr. President, take the lead and shed light on the myriad issues on China for fellow Filipinos, for our country, and, of course, for the future of our children. Maraming salamat po, Mr. President. Thank you.

Sen. Bam asserts independence from China

As the nation celebrates Independence Day, families are drowning from rising prices and Filipino fishermen are bullied out of Philippine waters, said Sen. Bam Aquino.

“Ipinagdiriwang natin ang Araw ng Kalayaan ngunit marami sa mga kapatid nating mangingisda ay hindi malayang mangisda sa sarili nating karagatan,” said Sen. Bam Aquino.

“Ninanakawan na at inaapi ang ating mga kapatid na mangingisda ngunit tila walang ginagawa ang pamahalaan para protektahan ang kanilang kapakanan,” added Sen. Bam.

Sen. Bam was referring to claims by several fishermen during a press conference in Malacanang that China is dictating the movement of vessels over the Panatag shoal through its coast guard ships in the area.

One of the fishermen claimed that the Chinese coast guard is blocking access of bigger Filipino fishing vessels to the shoal’s lagoon.

“We shouldn’t need China’s permission to fish in our own waters,” said Sen. Bam.

Earlier, Sen. Bam urged the Senate to take the lead in defending the country amid China’s militarization of our seas.

“If Malacañang will not side with the Filipino people on this issue, then the Senate can take the lead in defending our country,” said Sen. Bam, adding that a strong and independent Senate can and should investigate all our dealings with China, especially when the rights and livelihood of our countrymen are at risk.

Sen. Bam added that if the government continues its defeatist mentality, China will be more emboldened to commit more abuses to our territory and against the Filpino people.

Sen. Bam on the mounting issues with China

China continues to harass our fishermen, militarize our seas and threaten our sovereignty.
If Malacañang will not side with the Filipino people on this issue, then the Senate can take the lead in defending our country.
A strong and independent Senate can and should investigate all our dealings with China, especially when the rights and livelihood of our countrymen are at risk. 
If continued, this defeatist mentality will just lead to even more abuses.

Sen. Bam Aquino on China missiles in WPS

Ipaglaban naman natin ang talagang atin.

China invaded undisputed Philippine waters and installed missiles. Gawain ba ‘yan ng isang kaibigan?

Kumilos naman tayo para sa kinabukasan ng bansa at ng mga Pilipino.

We support the convening of National Security Council (NSC) and hope the President listens to our security experts.

We also filed a resolution to investigate the installation of missiles in Panganiban ang Zamora Reefs. 

Sen. Bam on China’s deployment of missile systems on 3 PH-claimed reefs

Ang paglalagay ng missile sa pinag-aagawang teritoryo ay siyang sukdulan ng ilang buwang pagpapabaya at pagbalewala ng pamahalaan sa isyu ng China.
Hindi pinahalagahan ng Malacañang ang kasarinlan ng ating bansa kaya naisantabi na rin ang kaligtasan nating mga mamamayan.
Muli nating hinihiling na maging bukas na ang administrasyon sa mga kasunduan nito sa China upang patunayan na hindi natin isinuko ang ating teritoryo at iba pang yaman sa pagkakaibigang ito.

Govt must act to stop escalating militarization of West PH Sea: Liberal stalwarts

Partido Liberal stalwarts on Wednesday slammed the government for its inaction on the country’s territorial claims on the West Philippine Sea amid reports that China’s two war planes landed on the reef.
“We demand transparency in the administration’s dealings with China. What else is the Philippines giving up to this new friendship?” asked Sen. Bam Aquino.
“Hindi ba dapat ipaglaban ang ating teritoryo, lalo na para sa mga mangingisda natin? Sinayang lang ng administrasyon ang panalo natin sa Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA),” added Sen. Aquino, referring to the PCA’s decision that the Philippines own the disputed territories.
Sen. Aquino said if the government is determined and sincere in protecting the country’s territory, then it should assert our victory in the PCA.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, Partido Liberal president, said the escalating militarization of the West Philippine Sea, taken with the Philippine government’s obliging attitude and behavior toward China, is unacceptable.
“Nagiging barangay na ba ng China ang Pilipinas?” he asked.
Pangilinan also pointed out that this sovereignty and security issue should have been discussed in the President’s recent visit to China.
“Hindi ba ito napag-usapan ng ating Presidente noong bumisita siya sa China kamakailan?” he asked.
What happened to jet ski promise?
Former lawmaker Erin Tanada, Partido Liberal’s vice president for external affairs, said that if Duterte cannot fulfill his campaign promise to ride a jet ski and plant a Philippine flag in the disputed territory, he must at least fight for it through the PCA decision.
“Ipakita sana ni Duterte ang tapang na ipinakita niya noong kampanya, laban sa China at hindi ang pagtikum-bibig habang nilalabag ang ating kasarinlan,” Tanada said.
Tanada reiterated that the presence of Chinese military transport planes on Panganiban Reef is another intrusion in our sovereign territory.
“We seek clarification from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of Foreign Affairs on this incident. Are Philippine authorities aware of this? Are these passages or landing allowed?  What is China bringing next after these transport planes — war planes?” Tanada said.
“Dapat nating tutulan itong patuloy na panloloob bilang bahagi ng ating paninindigan sa desisyon ng Arbitral Tribunal. We should be on guard against any move that could be prejudicial to order, and peace and security in the territory,” Tanada added.

Sen. Bam: PH Rise is not for China to name

Benham Rise is clearly Philippine territory and its features are not for China to name.

It is only right that the government counter any further moves to name features of our territory and propose remedies for the two formally named by China through the International Hydrographic Organization.

I hope that the hearing I will chair on February 26 will bring clarity to the issue and help determine next steps.

It is imperative that we protect our territory from any foreign interest.

Dapat nang magkaroon ng matibay at malinaw na plano ang pamahalaan sa Philippine Rise, lalo ngayong unti-unti nang kumikilos ang China para ito’y angkinin.

Huwag nating isuko na parang West Philippine Sea ang napakahalagang yamang ito.

Bam: Include PH delegation to Hague in bilateral talks with China

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