MANILA – Several of the country’s top business groups on Wednesday expressed support for the collective call urging China to withdraw its vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
The reef is “historically and by law” an undisputed Philippine territory, said a joint statement signed by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Management Association of the Philippines, and the Makati Business Club, among others.
Exclusive rights over the Julian Felipe Reef carries with it the right to utilization and the obligation to protect its economic benefits including its rich marine life and mineral deposits, the statement said.
The groups said China and the Philippines have many things in common after both being “subjugated by colonizers” and having their natural resources plundered.
“Now that China is strong economically and militarily, we call on China to refrain from becoming an imperial power,” the statement said.
“We call on the Chinese authorities to respect the sovereignty of the Philippines and other neighboring countries for it is only through peaceful co-existence that we can achieve prosperity for all,” it added
The Philippines’ task force on the West Philippine Sea said over 200 Chinese ships were sighted near the reef in March. The waters comprise the country’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.
The Philippines has fired fresh protests over the ships’ lingering presence, which the DFA has called illegal.
Manila and Beijing have long been locked in a dispute over the South China Sea even as the Duterte administration pursued closer business ties with China to land infrastructure funding and investments.
In 2016, a United Nations-backed tribunal invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea, but Beijing has ignored this, instead ramping up militarization and island-building activities in the vital waterway. (abs-cbn news)