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Philippines eyes ASEAN, treaty solution on Scarborough standoff

MANILA, Philippines -  The Department of Foreign Affairs is  hoping that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which the Philippines is a founding member, will take the lead in resolving the “regional” disputes among claimant-states in the West Philippine Sea.
In a radio interview, Raul Hernandez, DFA assistant secretary and sposkesperson, said  that besides the possible intervention of ASEAN, the Philippines has also invited China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei to pursue peaceful dispute settlement mechanisms under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“Dinudulog natin ito sa ASEAN , dahil ito’y isang regional problem at sana makolekta ang claimant-states at mapag-usapan ito. .. So far ang ginawa natin, inimbitahan natin ang China, and other claimants under UNCLOS mechanism  [pero] tumatanggi sila,” Hernandez said.

Under the UNCLOS, whose signatories include all the claimant states in the West Philippine Sea, parties are enjoined to pursue peaceful dispute resolutions such as conciliation, arbitration or may even seek an advisory opinion from the Seabed Disputes Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

Hernandez said the DFA has filed a new diplomatic protest against China to complain about a Chinese aircraft that has been harassing the Philippine ship at the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.

“Nagrereklamo tayo, meron tayong sovereign rights [diyan sa Panatag]. Later on, kapag dalhin natin ito sa sa settlement sa UNCLOS, titignan ang records ng diplomatic process, documents ito na titignan nila para magpatibay ng claim natin sa area na iyan,” Hernandez said.

The Scarborough standoff between Manila and Beijing began a week  ago when a Philippine Navy ship boarded and inspected eight Chinese private fishing vessels at the shoal, some 124  miles from Zambales province. The Navy found giant clams, corals and live sharks in the fishing vessels. However, the navy was unable to arrest the fishermen and confiscate their catch as two Chinese surveillance vessels intervened.

Since then,  Philippine and Chinese vessels had refused to leave the area. In asserting its claim over the shoal, Manila cites the 200-mile exclusive economic zone stated by the UNCLOS, while Beijing asserts that it owns the shoal on historical basis. 

Cheryl M. Arcibal | The Philippine Star | April 17, 2012 | Article Link

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