By Ellson Quismorio
Magdalo Party-List Rep. Manuel Cabochan III has refilled in the current 18th Congress a measure which seeks to declare July 12 as a special working holiday in commemoration of the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) regarding the West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute where the Philippines was awarded a favorable ruling.
House Bill (HB) No. 1947 or the proposed West Philippine Sea Victory Day, was previously filed by then-Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano in the 17th Congress.
The bill passed the committee level but was not tackled in the plenary for second reading.
Cabochan said that he was hoping that the 18th Congress will give due attention this time on HB 1947 and work on its eventual passage.
“This is a well-intentioned measure highlighting one of the notable victories of our country. We need to preserve the significance of the PCA ruling for this showed to world that the Philippines, despite being seen as a small nation, can stand up for its rights as an independent and sovereign state,” Cabochan said.
It was in July 2016 when the United Nations (UN)-backed PCA at The Hague sided with Manila in the arbitration case it filed against Beijing regarding its expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The case, filed during the time of former president Benigno S. Aquino III, was snubbed by China.
HB 1947 also mandates the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to include in their respective curriculum the background of the WPS as well as the events leading up to the PCA ruling three years ago.
“The West Philippine Sea dispute will most likely remain as a central issue for our country in the coming years. The future generations of Filipinos should be educated on this matter and its importance to our country’s national security, and food and energy resources,” Cabochan said.
The Magdalo solon said the bill was also meant to urge the Philippine government to recognize the PCA ruling.
“This bill also hopes to encourage the administration to make use of the PCA ruling to strengthen our own claims. War is not our only option to fight for our rights in our territory, and the PCA ruling proves just that.
“Unfounded threats of war should not be an excuse to forget our duty to protect our independence and territorial integrity of our nation,” Cabochan said, referring to recent pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The former Navy officer further said that the West Philippine Sea Victory Day ultimately seeks to provide a constant reminder for every Filipino on our obligation to fight for our country’s interests.
Cabochan is expected to align himself with the opposition bloc in the House of Representatives.