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House panel chair mulls recommending expulsion of Chinese diplomats

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A COAST guard team helps survivors of another ramming incident in the South China Sea.

By Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio

THE CHAIRMAN of the House Committee on Human Rights said he may recommend expelling Chinese diplomats if China is found responsible for human rights violations against Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea.

The congressional investigation underscores the Philippine government’s commitment to protecting Filipino fisherfolk displaced by Beijing’s expansive claims in the region, Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante, Jr. said in an interview on Wednesday last week.

On potential resolutions, Mr. Abante expressed readiness to consider recalling diplomats from China.

“We will cross it when we get there, but I’m in favor of recalling our diplomats from China and… even expelling the Chinese Foreign Ministry (from our country),” he said.

“The Chinese government needs to know that Congress is now investigating (alleged human rights violations) and that we won’t be silent on the matter,” he added.

A non-government organization recently accused Beijing of denying Filipino fishermen access to Scarborough Shoal, compromising their food security in the South China Sea.

Located 220 km west of Luzon, Scarborough Shoal lies far from China’s nearest major landmass, Hainan Island, yet falls within Beijing’s 80% claim of the sea based on a controversial 1940s map.

Despite a 2016 UN-backed arbitration court decision voiding the nine-dash line, China continues to assert its presence in the South China Sea with coast guard patrols.

The investigation would have international implications, Mr. Abante said, as it would show the country’s allies that the Philippine Congress is acting against China’s expansive claim in the waterbody.

“I might write to the UN (United Nations) Commission on Human Rights and EU (European Union) for them to realize that we’re not very happy with what’s happening now,” he said.

Hansley A. Juliano, a political science lecturer at Ateneo de Manila University, stressed the need for parallel House and Senate inquiries to strengthen governmental action.

“While this may not necessarily have enough impact by itself, it is nonetheless an additional log on our list of injuries caused by China, which should either affirm our allies’ commitments or help in the propaganda offensive to neutral or hesitant regional neighbors,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a senior research fellow at the Ateneo de Manila University Policy Center, urged lawmakers to allocate sufficient funds to bolster Manila’s territorial defense in the South China Sea.

“The best way they can contribute to our effort to protect the integrity of our national territory is to give up their PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) in favor of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Modernization program,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.”

“They can also publicly commit to making sure the program gets funded accordingly during the budget process,” he added.

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