MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation should commend Philippine Coast Guard personnel who successfully drive foreign vessels away from the West Philippine Sea, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Tuesday.
The PCG is an attached agency of the DOTR.
Last June 30, it dispersed five Chinese and two Vietnamese fishing vessels from the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. The coast guard said the seven ships, spotted at the vicinity waters off Marie Louise Bank which is located 147 nautical miles off El Nido, Palawan, dispersed after the BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409) issued a radio challenge.
"Congratulations are in order for the PCG personnel who bravely stood up for our sovereign rights. These acts of bravery should not go unnoticed," Hontiveros said.
"This obligation is not easy, so I hope they will be honored for each stand [they take]," she added in Filipino. "It is a matter of pride that a Filipino ship has courageously repelled the foreigners who venture illegally into our own ocean."
She further urged: "We need to be able to regularly and continuously give commendations so as to encourage more officers to steadfastly defend and protect our seas and our people."
'Sovereignty can be upheld without resorting to war'
In April, the same coast guard vessel dispersed seven Chinese maritime militia ships at Sabina (Escoda) Shoal off the coast of Palawan.
According to Hontiveros, these radio challenges prove that the Philippines can assert ownership of the West Philippine Sea without resorting to war, disputing a long-held claim of President Rodrigo Duterte's.
“Our defending and protecting the WPS does not have to lead to war. Our brave officers in the PCG are proof that we can stand up without becoming violent and cruel," the senator said in Filipino.
"Considering the heightened tensions in the disputed waters, official commendation should be given to our officers," she added.
"It’s the least we can do for those who serve on the frontlines of our national security."
Beijing does not recognize the arbitral ruling that invalidated its expansive claims over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.
It continues to deploy its ships to the West Philippine sea despite repeated diplomatic protests from Manila.