By Hannah Torregoza
Detained Senator Leila de Lima has renewed her efforts at declaring July 12 of every year as “West Philippine Sea Victory Day” in recognition of the country’s arbitration victory against China over the contested islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
De Lima refiled the measure, which she considers one of her priority legislations in the 18th Congress.
The senator said its passage into law would be a “fitting and compelling” reminder for the government to uphold the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea.
“In order to commemorate the momentous victory by the Philippines in the PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration), it is fitting and compelling that the 12th of July of each year be a Special Working Holiday dedicated to honoring this landmark decision favoring the Philippines,” De Lima said.
According to de Lima, she filed the measure in the hope “of instilling national pride among our people and motivating our government to constantly pursue and promote policies and programs consistent with the PCA ruling.”
De Lima noted that the South China Sea, also referred to as the West Philippine Sea, has been one of the most strategic waterways in the world with decades-long history of maritime dispute among seven claimant countries, including the Philippines and China.
She recalled that despite China’s aggressiveness in the WPS, the Philippine government, under then President Benigno S. Aquino III, filed an arbitration case with the United Nations-backed PCA to assert its sovereign rights and seek relief and ruling to settle the maritime dispute.
In July 12, 2016, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines as it declared the so-called “nine-dash line” claimed by China as invalid and has no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources.
However, despite this “historic international ruling” favoring the Philippines, de Lima lamented that Aquino’s predecessor, continues to have an unusually excessive friendly relationship with China as it refuses to assert the country’s rightful claim over the WPS.
Under the bill, de Lima said that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will be tasked to ensure the meaningful observance of the holiday by planning, designing and implementing activities for the “West Philippine Sea Victory Day.”
“The DFA should ensure that the significance of this historic decision [will] constantly remind the government to continually uphold our rights in the West Philippine Sea and emphasize that the policies that the government will pursue is consistent with the said ruling,” the lawmaker said.