By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives has called on the Duterte administration to convene the National Security Council in order to draw a national policy on the West Philippine Sea as China continued its military buildup in the disputed territory.
Prior to adjournment last week, congressmen unanimously voted to adopt Resolution No. 0183 expressing the sense of the Lower House on the need to convene the NSC to be able to formulate and define a national stand on the WPS, now the object of a territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.
Introduced by Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon, HR 0183 cited the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that junked China’s “historic rights claim” over the maritime areas of the WPS through its claimed nine-dash line.
“The Court also ruled that China’s occupation and construction activities on Mischief Reef violate the provisions of the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea,” noted lawmakers in the resolution.
Set against this backdrop is the tension triggered by reports that China has recently installed anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on Kagitingan, Zamora and Panganiban Reefs “as well as other activities being conducted by different claimant-nations in the Spratly area”
“Whereas, according to reports, China has deployed HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles and YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missiles with a reported range of 160 and 295 miles, respectively with the latter theoretically enabling China to interdict shipping in an area stretching from the coast off central Vietnam, to eastern Malaysia’s Sabah state and the Philippine’s Palawan island,” Resolution No. 0183 said.
In the resolution, lawmakers pointed out that a number of Philippine government officials, elected leaders and officials of the judiciary have issued various statements on the West Philippine Sea controversy reflecting the “need to formulate a clear-cut national policy on the matter and a definite plan of action for any eventuality in that area.”
“Whereas, there is therefore a need for the country to come up with an official policy on the West Philippine Sea that will serve as the national guide to all officials and policymakers in order that the Philippine position may be clear and strengthened in the international community,” congressmen stressed.
According to Biazon drawing up a policy on matters affecting national security is a responsibility imposed on the NSC under Executive Order No. 115, series of 1986.
The NSC, he noted, is also tasked to advise the President “with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, military, political, economic, social and educational policies pertaining to national security.”
At the same time, Biazon also cited Executive Order No. 34 issued in 2001 by then President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reconstituting the NSC membership.
The NSC is composed of the president as the chairperson; the vice president, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senate President Pro-tempore, Deputy Speakers for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao and Majority and Minority Leaders of both Houses of Congress, among others.
Under EO 34 the director-general of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the AFP chief of staff, chief of the Philippine National Police, director of the National Bureau of Investigation and the governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas are required to attend meetings and give advise during deliberations, if necessary.
“Whereas, now is the most opportune time to convene the NSC in order for the country to benefit from the collective wisdom, experience, and expertise of its members in the crafting of an official Philippine position on the West Philippine Sea,” the Lower House stated.