Thursday, May 17, 2012

Singapore backs Philippines on Panatag dispute – del Rosario

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday said that Singapore has expressed its support to the Philippines, demanding that China explain its historical claim over the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

In a press conference, del Rosario said that the 9-dash concept of China has been protested in the United Nations (UN) by some Asian countries.

“The 9-dash concept of China which we believe has no basis has been protested in the UN by Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Additionally, Singapore has publicly asked that China explain and clarify its 9-dash position,” del Rosario said.

The DFA chief noted that the dispute has recently shifted from the north of the Reed Bank to the Panatag Shoal, which the Philippines also calls Bajo de Masinloc because sits just 124 nautical miles from Zambales province. China calls the area Huangyan Island.

Del Rosario said that Chinese fishermen had been blatantly destroying the bio-diversity there by harvesting large volumes of endangered species.

“This is a gross violation of our Fisheries Code and of the International Convention Governing the Trading of Endangered Species,” he said.

But the DFA chief said that the relationship of the Philippines with China has not been broken despite the dispute on territorial claim.

“We have a long-standing friendship with China with incredible historical people-to-people links.

China is our third-largest trading partner. We benefit from our relations with China just as China benefits from its relations with us. Philippine investments in China amount to nearly $3 billion while China’s investments in the Philippines amount to less than $1.5 billion dollars,” the Cabinet official said.

Del Rosario added that President Benigno Aquino 3rd had an excellent state visit to China during which he signed an agreement that both countries would work toward achieving US$60 billion in two-way trade within a five-year period and two million in inward visitors within five years.

“It was also agreed upon that the bilateral agenda would be moved forward in the most positive way while the areas of contention such as the West Philippine Sea would be abstracted and dealt with separately,” the Cabinet official added.

The Reed Bank, which is an integral part of the Philippines, is 84 nautical miles and well within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Palawan, del Rosario said.

“It is, at the same time, nearly 600 nautical miles from the nearest coastline of China.

When we protested these incursions, the response was that these could not be incursions since China had an indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea on the basis of their 9-dash concept,” he added.

Del Rosario admitted that resolving the disagreement with China will be difficult.

“Even as we look for ways to solve the disputes peacefully, we need to stand for what is ours. . .I think it’s not going to be easy and as you see it’s not easy,” he told a business forum yesterday.

The official said that the Philippines may be “tested” and “when tested, everyone needs to make a sacrifice.”

“Chinese maritime surveillance vessels had subsequently prevented us from enforcing our laws and had demanded that we exit from our exclusive economic zone. Your government had no choice except to take a stand to protect our sovereignty and sovereign rights. The standoff remains until this time. It is our belief that through continuing consultations, the crisis there could be defused peacefully,” he added.

The Chinese government also on Wednesday said that it is determined to defend its territorial sovereignty over Huangyan Island.

“The Chinese government is firmly determined to defend China’s territorial sovereignty over the Huangyan Island. At the same time, we are committed to addressing the current situation at the Huangyan Island through diplomatic consultation,” said Chinese Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei, in a response over the Huangyan Island incident.

“We have just read the related report. Our related stance remains unchanged. The Chinese side hopes that the Philippine side will address the current situation at the Huangyan Island through diplomatic consultation with the Chinese side,” Lei added.

Neil Alcober | Corresponded/The Manila Times | May 17, 2012 | Article Link

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