Philippines maintains 'rules-based approach'

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Friday, July 22, 2011


FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario reiterated that countries claiming the Spratly islands wholly or partly should adhere to international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Del Rosario made the call after leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) signed an accord with Chinese officials last Wednesday aimed at establishing guidelines for negotiations on the dispute.

"Where there are disputes, rules provide an effective tool for peaceful and fair resolution and we believe that this is the key to advancing the peaceful settlement of disputes for all countries concerned," he said.

Countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and China also claim some parts of the oil and gas rich islands in the West Philippine Sea, using historical records and UNCLOS provisions as arguments.

Under the Unclos, a feature within 200 nautical miles of a country is part of its exclusive economic zone.

In 2002, the countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), a non-binding decree that aims to reduce political tension in the contested waters while prohibiting claimant countries to erect structures and conduct activities in the Spratly Islands.

Recently, Chinese markers and construction activity have been reported around Recto Bank, formerly Reed Bank, which reportedly belongs to the Palawan continental shelf and is said to be rich in oil.

On Wednesday, Representatives Emmeline Aglipay, Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Ben Evardone, Kaka Bag-ao, and Walden Bello visited the 37-hectare Pagasa Island, home of 60 Filipinos.

This irked the Chinese Embassy in Manila, calling the visit as "to undermine peace and stability in the region and sabotage the China-Philippines relationship." (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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