Chinese renege on agreement over disputed shoal-A A +A
Thursday, September 27, 2012
THE Philippine government may soon send back its ships to Panatag shoal if China continues to occupy the waters in the area despite an earlier agreement for the two countries to pull out their vessels from the disputed rock formation in the West Philippine Sea.
At the sidelines of the Center for Strategic and International Studies forum in Washington, DC, where he was invited as keynote speaker, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said that China reneged on the agreement reached sometime in June during negotiations in Manila between him and Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing.
"There was an agreement between the two countries that ships will be pulled out from the shoal. The Philippines pulled out their ship but the Chinese did not comply with the agreement," said del Rosario during the question-and-answer portion of the forum.
"We believe they (China) should do this and, of course, if they continue to violate Philippine sovereign rights in that area, then we will have to consider a response. We do not know what that response is just yet," he added.
Del Rosario made the comment in the wake of the escalating tension between China and another east-Asian country, Japan, with which it also has an ongoing territorial spat.
The Philippines insists that Panatag shoal (also known locally as Bajo de Masinloc), which is just 124-nautical miles off Masinloc, Zambales, is part of its territory. A similar claim is being made by China based on historical grounds.
However, China refused to consider the Philippine position to settle the dispute legally by bringing the matter before an international arbitration body, saying the matter should be discussed bilaterally.
Recent reconnaissance flights of the Philippine Air Force showed that China still maintains three government ships outside the shoal's lagoon. The Chinese have also cordoned off the shoal's entrance using ropes.
President Benigno Aquino III earlier ordered the withdrawal of two government ships from the shoal due to bad weather. Independent fishing bans were likewise raised by Manila and Beijing over the area, supposedly to diffuse the tension in the area, but Chinese fishermen still continued to fish in the region.
Del Rosario, in his speech, again called for a rules-based approach in resolving the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, saying this is the only legitimate and viable way to address the issue.
"Let me make it clear: our foreign policy does not seek to isolate one country, nor even force the resolution of a dispute. Our core interest lies in being able to contribute to ensuring that the global security and economic system is based firmly on the rule of law. We are firmly committed to helping build an international system that will be just and fair to all states, regardless of economic size or power," he said.
Under the rules-based approach, countries would be governed by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas treaty, which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
"We want to establish an actionable framework to define, clarify, and segregate, in accordance with the Unclos, the disputed and non-disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea. This would pave the way for feasible cooperation between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China in the medium-term," he said.
Del Rosario said the Philippines is still studying the possibility of a dispute settlement mechanisms under Unclos.
As for the diplomatic track, he said Manila will continue to keep channels of discussions with China open.
He cited his meeting last month with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, which, he said, shows that high-level contact between Manila and Beijing is being maintained. (JCV/Sunnex)