Senator Christopher “Bong” Go (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Christopher “Bong” Go reiterated his call to respect the rule of law, saying the Chinese demand to remove the grounded BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal is “unacceptable.”

“I find this demand not acceptable. The Ayungin Shoal is part of the Kalayaan Group of Islands -- an integral part of the Philippines. It belongs to us, and it is ours to protect and use for the benefit of our people,” Go said in a news release on Sunday.

Go, vice chair of the Senate committee on national defense and security, peace, and unification and a member of the Senate committee on foreign relations, made this comment after the Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocked and water cannoned the Philippines’ supply vessels for its military personnel station in the grounded old Navy ship on Nov. 16.

“No one can legally prevent us from exercising our rights. Ang sa Pilipinas ay sa Pilipinas (What is ours is ours),” he said.

He, however, continued to urge the government to stay the course in asserting the national interest in a peaceful manner.

“I urge all stakeholders to exercise restraint and avoid increasing the tension and, instead, abide by our commitments and duties under international law. This is how responsible members of the international community should rightly comport themselves,” Go said.

Consistent with his independent foreign policy, President Rodrigo Duterte raised the matter of the Ayungin Shoal incident during the Asean-China Special Summit on Nov. 22, saying “We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal and view with grave concern other similar developments.”

“This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership. There is simply no other way out of this colossal problem but the rule of law," Duterte added.

At least three major powers issued statements of support for the Philippines following the shoal incident with the United States reaffirming its treaty commitment to the Philippines, considered as its ally, saying that an “armed attack on Philippine public vessels in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”

Japan reiterated the need to peaceably settle disputes based on international law while Australia expressed concern over destabilizing incidents and reaffirmed its support for the Philippines and the 2016 arbitral ruling.

In 2016, the Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated China’s “nine-dash line” argument used to claim huge parts of the West Philippine Sea.

In 1999, the Philippine military ran the World War II-era cruiser Sierra Madre aground on Ayungin Shoal to bolster the country's claim and create a safe haven for a small force of armed personnel. (PR)