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PMA groups back Lorenzana on Julian Felipe Reef issue

Two organizations graduates and retired members of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) support Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s firm stand on the continued encroachment by Chinese vessels off Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

(Photo courtesy of AFP)

“The Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc. (PMAAAI) and the Philippine Military Academy Retirees Association Inc. (PMARAI) through the undersigned duly elected officers join as they fully support the firm stand of protest and opposition of the Secretary of National Defense, Delfin Lorenzana against the ongoing encroachment of the Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef,” the two organizations said in a letter dated April 6, forwarded to reporters by Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong.

PMAAAI chair Amado Espino, Jr. and PMARAI chair  Vidal E. Querol signed the letter for their respective organizations.

“The acts of the Chinese Embassy in downplaying the issue and subverting the truth are very alarming indeed. The weather condition in the West Philippine Sea has been fair in the past few days and to claim that the vessels still cannot leave due to rough seas and inclement weather is a blatant lie, hence deplorable,” the letter pointed out.

“This is even made more ironic by the fact that the Embassy itself calls Sec. Lorenzana’s statement as “perplexing” while completely ignoring the lack of logic in their own ones,” it added.

The groups also noted that the 220 vessels have been spotted as early as March 7 and that Julian Felipe Reef is also not very far from the coincidentally named Mischief Reef which has slowly been turned into a military base by China over the last few years.

“Such actions are sufficient to make a reasonable citizen suspicious of the whole situation,” it stressed

“This issue had been discussed during the hearing of the South China Sea Arbitration Case. Under International Law, the Philippines has sovereignty over its territorial sea (12 nautical miles) and jurisdiction over its Exclusive Economic Zone (beyond 12 and up to 200 nautical miles). As such, Julian Felipe Reef falls within Philippine jurisdiction and we have every right to defend it from foreign intrusion. It is even more important to note that China and the Philippines are both parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and must therefore abide by all agreements stated therein,” the two groups asserted.

They likewise stressed that agreements stated in the UNCLOS must be upheld if any meaningful dialogue among other countries is to take place.

In the arbitration case promulgated on July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration stated that “China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’ are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceeded the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention.”

The ruling also said that “the convention supersedes any historic rights in excess of the limits imposed therein.”

“That the tribunal also states several times throughout their arbitration that China has breached other reefs and even unlawfully preventing other vessels from fishing in areas that they themselves had no jurisdiction in the first place,” the letter added.

Aside from illegal fishing, the Chinese have also been harvesting endangered species on a significant scale, as well as harvesting giant clams in a manner that is severely destructive of the coral reef ecosystem. “The illegal encroachment, coupled with the persistent unlawful acts perpetrated by the Chinese over the years in these territorial disputes only further show the hypocrisy by which the latter have conducted themselves,” they added.

“We, therefore, urge the Chinese Embassy to respect our government officials and for the Chinese government to adhere to the rules as laid by international law,” the two PMA groups emphasized. 

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