The Philippine Senate finally adopted Resolution No. (SRN) 718 on Tuesday, taking into consideration SRNs 659 and 707, which condemns the continued harassment of Filipino fishermen and the persistent incursions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) by the Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels.

Sponsored by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros, SRN 718 urges the Philippine government to take appropriate action in asserting and securing the country’s sovereign rights over its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.

The measure, which was co-authored by all senators, also calls on China to stop its illegal activities in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

“We came out with this strong consensus yesterday (July 31) after discussions with the West Philippine Sea Task Force, together with the Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. (Romeo Saturnino) Brawner (Jr.), and DFA Secretary (Enrique) Manalo. And actually, we never watered down the resolutions that we filed. We actually strengthened the first resolutions that we initially filed with Senator Risa,” Zubiri clarified.

“I think what happened here is that we strengthened the position of the government. Now, we give them several options to choose on how to deal with our neighbors in the north and the beauty of this is with proper consensus and consultation among our colleagues, we had come out unanimous with this,” he added thanking his fellow senators.

Hontiveros, who initially filed SRN 659, likewise expressed her gratitude to colleagues for supporting not only to make the WPS issue a part of the national conversation, but for urging the Philippine government take the necessary steps to consolidate global support over the country’s historic 2016 Arbitral Award.

“Isang napakahalagang tagumpay ito hindi lang ng Senado kundi ng buong Pilipinas (This is a very important success not only for the Senate but for the whole Philippines). The Senate crossed party lines to stand unified for our country,” she added also thanking the Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea for helping senators improve the measure.

In a separate manifestation, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa cited China which “aggressively refuse and continuously refuse to recognize our country’s sovereign rights and callously violates the 2016 Arbitral Ruling.”

“This representation is one with the chamber in urging the Philippine Government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, in pursuing more vigorous legal remedies in securing the safety and integrity of our territory,” Dela Rosa said.

The reported adoption of SRN 659 last week was put on hold after Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a former DFA chief, urged his colleagues “to align the information they have with the existing strategy of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in the WPS issue.

Cayetano clarified that he did not prevent colleagues from approving the measure but rather urged them to further discuss the issue with the President, who is the Chief Diplomat of the country.

The body agreed to hold a closed door caucus on Monday with concerned government agencies to “strengthen” the measure before being adopted in the Senate plenary. (PNA)