These Senate aspirants vow to risk lives to defend West Philippine Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 31) — “Ang mamatay nang dahil sa’yo (To die for you).”

For senatorial candidate Joan Sheelah Nalliw, this last line in the national anthem tells how far she can go in defending the West Philippine Sea – a question poised to her and three other aspirants during CNN Philippines’ seventh senatorial forum on Sunday.

Ang kasagutan niyan ay nasa huling linya ng ating Pambansang Awit – ang mamatay nang dahil sa Pilipinas, ang mamatay nang dahil sa ating teritoryo,” said Nalliw, a lawyer and former teacher.

[Translation: The answer is in the last line of our national anthem – to die for the Philippines, to die for our territory.]

Bilang mga Pilipino, dapat pinapangalagaan at pinoprotektahan natin ang ating mga teritoryo hanggang sa huling hininga natin,” she added.

[Translation: As Filipinos, we should take care of and protect our territory until our last breath.]

Another senatorial candidate, community organizer Bernard Austria shares the same view.

Kaya natin dapat hanggang buhay natin kaya nating itaya para ipaglaban ang ating teritoryo at ang ating soberenya,” Austria said.

[Translation: We should be able to risk our lives to defend our territory and sovereignty.]

'West PH Sea is ours'

Physician Willie Ong stressed that Filipinos own the West Philippine Sea, citing that it is within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea. In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights in its EEZ, invalidating China’s sweeping claims in the global waterway.

"Atin 'yung West Philippine Sea (West Philippine Sea is ours), Ong said, adding that if there would be a joint exploration of resources in the area, “kailangan lamang tayo (we should have the advantage).”

The Philippines and China in November 2018 signed an agreement which lays the groundwork for future talks on oil exploration in Manila's waters. Critics expressed concern the government may be surrendering parts of Philippine territory to China, a claim Malacañang has repeatedly denied.

President Rodrigo Duterte has been criticized for pursuing friendlier ties with China despite the East Asian giant’s refusal to recognize the arbitral ruling in favor of the Philippines. Duterte promised to bring the ruling up with China during his term.

Labor lawyer Sonny Matula said the Philippines should protest other countries’ actions in the West Philippine Sea whenever necessary.

Dapat nating protektahan ang mga Pilipino at ang teritoryo ng Pilipinas… Kung ito ay naagaw ng iba, dapat magprotesta tayo,” he said.

[Translation: We should protect Filipinos and Philippine territory. If this is being taken from us, we should protest.]