A veteran lawmaker has urged Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of National Defense (DND) to come up with a clear course of action to stop the unabated strident assertions and massive reclamation activities of China in the West Philippine Sea.
In filing House Resolution No. 2059, Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian asked the House leadership to direct both House Committees on Foreign Affairs and National Defense to conduct a joint inquiry looking into government’s actions to address the standoff against China in the contested Kalayaan group of islets or Spratlys.
“China shows a wanton disregard of our rights and a blatant disrespect of our country. Their notion of being a super power is now being expressed through coercion and creeping invasion of its neighbors’ territories,” Gatchalian said.
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Recent aerial and satellite images confirmed reports of large-scale construction of permanent structures on the contested areas, including banks, reefs, and low tide elevations which do not even qualify as islands, as well as small inhabitable coral projections, which are considered “rocks” under the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS).
Defense officials have also confirmed that China is building a wall at Mischief Reef, which is located inside the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). According to DND, the “China wall” will cause non-stop fishing by the Chinese from the People’s Republic of China. It will also enable the Chinese Navy and Coast Guard to check all vessels passing through the area.
Starting last year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has recorded at least six maritime aggression from Chinese vessels, in which Filipino fishermen were driven away from Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal).
Gatchalian, a member House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said the government must have concrete courses of action to suppress China’s threatening reclamation activities in order to prevent the possible irreversible and widespread economic damage it might cause to future generations.
Several violations against the rights and sovereignty of the Philippines have been escalating, such as the prevention of Philippine vessels and fisher folks from gathering resources in the contested water, which are well within our exclusive economic zone,” explained Gatchalian.
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The former three-term mayor of Valenzuela City has been pushing for the revival of the Reserved Offices Training Corps (ROTC) as a means of inculcating in the youth patriotism and nationalism in the wake of renewed activities of the Chinese military in the Spratlys.
Gatchalian said making ROTC mandatory for all male students enrolled in colleges, universities and technical or vocational schools is in line with the Constitutional provision, which states that “the Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal, military or civil service.”
Under House Bill No. 2338, Gatchalian wants the ROTC to form part of the curriculum of all college degree courses as well as technical or vocational courses, and shall be a pre-requisite for graduation. Students shall be required to complete the ROTC for an academic period for two years.
“Now is the opportune time to re-institutionalize the basic military and officer training for our tertiary students. Through this legislation, they will undergo the appropriate training to ensure their readiness to respond to the call of service,” said Gatchalian.
The NPC solon said it is the duty of every citizen to safeguard the security of the State and the sovereignty of our country, especially in the light of the creeping occupation of the Kagitingan Reef and Mischief Reef by China’s People’s Liberation Army.
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In pushing for H.B. 2338, Gatchalian noted that prior to its being an optional requirement of the National Service Training Program (NSTP), ROTC graduates constitute roughly about 75 percent of the AFP officers corps, and has since been the breeding ground for prominent alumni who became commanding officers of the Army, including chief of staff of the AFP.
“The ROTC program will bolster confidence in our military preparedness and capability while at the same time provide our country with support from student-cadet reservists and potential commissioned officers,” Gatchalian concluded. (Tim Alcantara)