Robredo calls for protests vs. efforts to limit movement in S. China Sea

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Vice President Leni Robredo. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 12) — Vice President Leni Robredo called on the Philippine government to peacefully protest China's actions in the contested waters, two years after the country won the arbitration case on the South China Sea.

"This is the time for us to peacefully protest any effort to limit or control movement in these waters. As neighbors and friends, we must stand in opposition to military build-ups in the West Philippine Sea," Vice President Robredo said in a forum Thursday.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague decided in favor of the Philippines on the case against China's claims in the West Philippine Sea.

Robredo said the Philippines must not take its ties with neighboring countries for granted.

"We must explore the possibilities for ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and other means of regional cooperation in ways we have never done before. We have already started creating this space of cooperation between us. Let us use it well," she said.

The ASEAN regional bloc has repeatedly expressed concerns over China's reclamation and alleged militarization in the disputed waters. Five out of the 10 member states also have overlapping claims with China in the South China Sea: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, also a staunch defender of the Philippines' claims over the region, said the country can further strengthen the implementation of the arbitral tribunal ruling by encouraging other nations to freely navigate in the waters.

"The Philippines and other coastal states should welcome and even encourage more freedom of navigation and overflight operations by other countries in the South China Sea," Carpio said. "With these operations, China can no longer turn South China Sea into a Chinese marine nostrum."

China has continued to ignore the ruling, and it has also recently deployed military structures in the region, including missile systems and bomber planes.

Tensions rose between the Philippines and China in May after reports that members of the Chinese Coast Guard are taking Filipino fishermen's catch.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it has filed dozens of diplomatic protests with China due to these incidents, but critics demand for details of these protests.

President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a softer stance on the ruling, although he has promised to bring it up to Chinese President Xi Jinping some time during his term. Duterte earlier said the country cannot go to war with China over the dispute.