Senate tackles nuclear weapons ban treaty amid enforcement doubts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14) — A treaty banning nuclear weapons is up for concurrence by the Senate.

The Treaty on Prohibition on Nuclear Weapon for concurrence, endorsed by the Committee on Foreign Relations to the plenary, bans signatory states from developing, testing, producing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, using, or threatening to use nuclear weapons. It also prohibits deploying nuclear weapons on national territory and assisting any state in conducting prohibited activities.

However, Senator Francis Tolentino cautioned during a hearing on Thursday that the country may not be able to enforce the treaty.

Tolentino noted that the five big countries reported to have nuclear weapons- China, Russia, France, the United States, and United Kingdom- are not signatories to the treaty.

He also questioned the country's ability to make sure there's no stockpiling of nuclear weapons in the disputed West Philippine Sea where China has deployed substantial military assets.

“We cannot prevent China from stockpiling. We cannot ask China to remove the stockpiles. We cannot ask the international community to accompany us to verify the existence, to prevent the stockpiling, to remove the stockpiled materials, and to sanction a non-party to the treaty, and I'm referring to the occupant in the West Philippine Sea,” Tolentino said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs officials say the country can declare it has no knowledge of the presence of nuclear weapons or nuclear devices in its territory, including those identified in the arbitral award.

“We are only mandated to declare whether we have nuclear weapons or nuclear devices if we have knowledge of this or we are allowing other nuclear weapon states to install, to station or deploy nuclear weapons or nuclear devices in our country,” Foreign Affairs Director Marge Malang said.