Mediation is still 'best option' in sea spat-A A +A
Thursday, May 24, 2012
A SENIOR Philippine official told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York that mediation is still the best solution to territorial disputes among nations and level the playing field among economies in conflict with one another.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario spoke Thursday at the high-level meeting of UNGA on the role of member-states in mediation in New York, as the Philippines remained embroiled in an seven-week standoff with China over the disputed Scarborough shoal, which Filipinos call Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.
He said in his speech that vast political and economic differences between states, including those in dispute, often render the doctrine on mediation a "dead letter law."
Del Rosario said mediation provides a mechanism for the peaceful settlement of disputes and as an important instrument in transforming the sovereign equality of states "from legal fiction to potent political reality."
"When parties are in a dispute, differences in political and economic power can often weigh against a fair, just, peaceful and lasting resolution. Mediation and other third party mechanisms can level the playing field. These help ensure that although one party may lack in power, it can make up for through reliance on the rule of law," he said.
Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it plans to bring the maritime impasse with China over the contested shoal before an international arbitration body, possibly the United Nations-backed International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas, in an attempt to peacefully settle the spat which started April 10.
China, however, rejected the Philippines' suggestion, insisting that the best way to settle the territorial row was through bilateral negotiations.
But as China flexed its maritime muscle in the contested shoal, the Philippines acknowledged that it is militarily ill-equipped to faceoff with its counterpart’s more advanced vessels.
"It is for this reason that we are pursuing this course (mediation) in hoping to resolve the conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea," Del Rosario said.
He said that, in contrast, the cost of conflict is "too high," and it must be prevented "or we will surely fall victim to its terrible consequences."
"We had to learn our lesson the hard and tragic way – by opening our doors to the pain, loss and suffering that the scourge of war can bring. The cost of conflict is too high, in lives lost, in futures destroyed and in what must be done to rebuild," he said.
"At the heart of our United Nations is the hallowed obligation to settle our disputes peacefully. Our Charter enshrines this peremptory norm. Our efforts to bring mediation to the fore reinforce this normative challenge," he added.
Del Rosario delivered his speech at the UNGA as China belied the allegations in the seventh diplomatic protest filed by the Philippines, specifically over China’s sending of close to a hundred vessels to the shoal, at a time when both countries have enforced a fishing ban on the area. (JCV/Sunnex)