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PH must assert West Philippine Sea ownership – Senate minority

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The government exists to “protect and serve” its people and their interest, the Senate opposition bloc said on Thursday.

The minority group stressed this point amid reports that President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the military to halt the construction of “nipa huts” in a sandbar near the Filipino-controlled Pag-asa island in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) after China protested on such activity.

Over a year ago, the international tribunal decided that China’s nine-dash lines have no effect on the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, which is about 381,000 square kilometers of maritime space.

“That’s bigger than the Philippine land area of 300,000 square kilometers. And that maritime space includes fish and other marine life, as well as oil, gas, and mineral resources,” Sen. Bam Aquino said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said, “Since before the decision, China has been taking our food. It’s been taking our fish.”

“The government, in behalf of the Filipino people, and especially our fisher folk, should enforce this decision so that our fisher folk can go back to this maritime space and fish,” Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said.

“We suggest that the government use its ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) chairmanship to rally our allies and friends to this end — for our people, for our fisher folk,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said.