Makabansa, a group of individuals advocating for peace, staged a rally on Tuesday against Vietnam to stop it from stealing the country’s marine resources and to protest the militarization activities it is undertaking in the West Philippines Sea (WPS).

The protest, attended by around 60 Makabansa members, was held in front of the embassy of Vietnam in Malate, Manila, on August 1, with the aim of initiating talks between the Philippines and Vietnam regarding the boundaries of islands found in the disputed region.

Nolan Tiongco, the lead convenor of the rally, pointed out that not only China but also Vietnam is violating the Philippines’ territorial sovereignty in the WPS.

“Yung pag-occupy ng mga rocks ng Vietnamese government ay nakakatakot. Although ayaw natin na (…) ang territorial boundaries na wag sakupin ng kahit sinong bansa, maging U.S. or China or Vietnam, yung medyo hindi alam ng karamihan ay 21 islands na ang nasakop ng Vietnam. Ang China ay eight lang. Ang sa atin naman ay eight din. Grabe yung silently na-occupy na nila yung Spratlys,” Tiongco said.

Tiongco forwarded a letter to the Vietnam Embassy and the City Mayor’s Office in Manila, declaring their intentions. However, they were dispersed by the local police on the same day.

Territorial claims over features in the WPS have long been a point of contention among the bordering nations. Earlier this year, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. initiated talks with the Vietnam Embassy to address the territories in the WPS, which resulted in allowing Vietnamese ships to cross Philippine boundaries.

Moreover, ASEAN and China are jointly working on establishing a substantive Code of Conduct to govern the nations bordering the WPS and South China Sea.

“Lahat naman tayo ay nagkeclaim. Sino bang magde-decide kung kanino yun, diba?” Tiongco said, expressing Makabansa’s desire that there should be a clearer discussion about territorial boundaries in the WPS.

“Kasi kung international law yung 12 nautical miles yang (…) sakop natin ng 12 nautical miles yung Kalayaan [group of islands] at Spratly. Kung paguusapan ay sukatan [ay yung 12 nautical miles] ay pasok tayo doon. Kasi ang claim nila is historical, so di ko rin alam kung ano yung pinagbabatayan nila. Sino ba yung pwedeng humusga sa taong nagkeclaim?” he added.

The Philippines currently holds eight recognized territories in WPS including Spratlys and the Kalayaan group of islands.

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