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Philippines bids to get ASEAN involved in Scarborough standoff, bares overflights

MANILA - (UPDATE: 3:41 PM) - The Philippines is informally but publicly reeling in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) into the ongoing standoff with China at the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, unbroken two weeks after it began by China’s refusal to recognize UN-set exclusive economic zones.

Just hours after noting three overflights over Panatag by unidentified aircraft, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario declared on Thursday that the presence of China in the shoal is a violation of the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

“I think that the Chinese are now in violation of the DOC when they are preventing us from enforcing our laws within our Exclusive Economic Zone,” he said at a press briefing. 
“ASEAN should be paying attention to that (statement),” he added, but stopped short of saying what the ASEAN chairman should do. 
“China is a dialogue partner, they [ASEAN] can issue a statement. ASEAN has succeeded in the past in bringing people together, (but) I cannot tell the chairman of ASEAN what to do. It’s up to him what to do,” he said. 

The DOC is a non-binding agreement between the 10 ASEAN member-countries and China affirming all the parties’ intention to maintain peace, stability, economic growth, and prosperity in the region. All parties signed the declaration in 2002, affirming their commitments to the Charter of the United Nations, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and other similar international laws.

While no country has formally responded to his call to the international community to support the Philippines in this issue, the secretary said that “many” ASEAN countries have reached out to him and told him that they are “following the issue very closely and sympathize with what is happening.”

On his and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin scheduled 2 + 2 Dialogue with their United States counterparts next week, he said the Philippines is not necessarily asking the US for help in this case. 

Del Rosario said he seeks to “maximize benefits from the Mutual Defense Treaty not for any specific circumstance, but the idea of achieving a minimum credible defense posture is what we should try to do because it is what we have neglected to do over the years. It is time for us to do it.”

Asked if China will protest this, he said the development of the Philippines’ minimum credible defense posture has been discussed with the US last year, and that the strengthening of the military has been part of President Aquino’s agenda since Day 1. 

He said all he asks is for the US and other countries “to make a judgment of the implications [of the Chinese actions in Scarborough Shoal] on their own country. 

Overflights by unidentified aircraft, China trying to establish rules

Del Rosario added he has been informed that two unidentified aircraft flew over the area around midnight last night, and another aircraft, again at 1:25 a.m. 

But he said “there is no harassment and the situation is normal” in the area.

Del Rosario said that together with Chinese incursion into the Reed Bank last year, this recent incident at the Scarborough Shoal makes it appear that “China is trying to establish rules” in the region, as both the Reed Bank and the Scarborough Shoal are clearly part of the Philippines. 

He said that China appears to be trying to establish its sovereignty and sovereign rights over all of the South China China, which are “baseless.”

“Clearly, they have no basis for doing this…We have invited them to UNCLOS and they refused,” he said.

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| April 26, 2012 | Article Link

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