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by Akbayan (Citizens Action Party)
Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2012 at 10:00 AM
Akbayan Party today called on Filipinos to be vigilant and engaged in defending the country's sovereignty from different foreign interests. The statement was made coinciding with the formal start of the United States' Balikatan military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and several allies, and amid the unresolved tension at the Panatag shoal involving the Philippines and China.
"At a time when the country's sovereignty is being challenged or worse, trampled upon by different foreign powers, we call on the Filipino people to exercise their patriotic duty in defending our rights as a sovereign nation," Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said.
The partylist lawmaker identified the US-led military exercises and the continuing Chinese intrusions in the Philippine sea as glaring examples.
"The Filipino people should see the real score behind this two issues. The public must not make the mistake of fighting one bully and siding with another. We should stand up against all intimidators whether they are American or Chinese," Bello said.
Bello said It is obvious that the United States wants to expand its military presence in the region by using the Balikatan military exercises as an excuse to hide its military aspirations.
"We are at the losing end of this joint exercises. We not only undermine our country's independence to joint military drills mainly supervised by a foreign power, we also risk of unnecessarily provoking our neighbors such as China, which is similarly guilty of disrespecting our sovereignty, Bello added.
Bello said his political party hopes President Benigno Simeon Aquino III will reconsider conducting more exercises in the future.
"Again, we reiterate our call to President Aquino, let this be the last time that this government allow a foreign power shape our international and military policies. While we believe and support mutual cooperation among different countries, this should be based on mutual respect of each country's rights and interests," Bello said.
Likewise, Akbayan called on the public to unite in defending Philippine sovereignty in the Panatag shoal, the location of the recent standoff between the country's naval forces and China's vessels.
"Let us raise our collective and national voice in condemning the continuing Chinese intrusions into our territory. We may be a small country, but we are not parsimonious in demonstrating our national indignation against those who bully us into surrendering our rights as a sovereign nation," Bello said.
Bello who led a peace and sovereignty mission into the Spratly islands last year said the Chinese government should immediately end the "stalemate" in the area by withdrawing its vessels stationed in Panatag shoal.
"The Panatag shoal is an integral part of Philippine territory. The Chinese vessels entered our territory without due permission or invitation. It is only proper that they end the tension by immediately leaving the area," Bello said.
Akbayan also condemned China’s illegal poaching activities in the Panatag Shoal.
"China is not only guilty of undermining Philippine sovereignty but also of poaching our country’s marine resources. Sadly, instead of apologizing for this transgression, the Chinese government chose to withdraw its fishing vessels together with their illegal harvest from the Philippines. It is not only guilty of bullying but also of coddling marine poachers, " Bello said.
It was reported that the eight Chinese fishing vessels that were stopped by BRP Gregorio Del Pilar last week contained assorted endangered species, large amounts of corals, sizable quantities of giant clams, live sharks and other marine endangered species which were allegedly unlawfully acquired from Philippine seas.
Akbayan said disputes in the West Philippine Sea must be resolved diplomatically and amicably and not through actions that coerce other countries. The group said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a viable platform to resolve alleged disputes.
The group also called on the Chinese government to abide by the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
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