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US-based group urges UN to initiate multilateral talks for peaceful end to Panatag standoff

MANILA, Philippines – A Washington-based Filipino organization urged on Saturday the United Nations (UN) to initiate a convention of Southeast Asian Nations for multilateral talks to resolve peacefully the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal standoff between the Philippines and China.

The Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), in an e-mail to the Philippines News Agency, said “the UN can offer its good offices for mediation and conciliation among competing claims to avoid aggressive escalation leading to armed confrontation.”

In the wake of the maritime dispute between China and the Philippines at the Scarborough Shoal, the MHC said "it is best to ask the United Nations to initiate a convention of Southeast Asian countries for a multilateral talks to peacefully and diplomatically resolve the political impasse on the shoal" which is part of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

At the same time, Arnedo Valera, one of three co-executive directors of MHC, suggested that to avert any military conflict arising from the Scarborough standoff, the Philippine government, through President Benigno S. Aquino III, spearhead “the creation of the SREDC (Spratly Resources Economic Development Commission) and also ask the United Nations for mediation or arbitration on this matter."

Valera said that “the creation of SREDC can be an effective mechanism to manage whatever potential resources in the area that will be discovered and shared in a communal way by the competing claimants. Any political posturing should not result in a zero-sum game to a particular claimant country."

Valera, a UN Representative on Migration, Global Peace and Security under the auspices of FSUN (Foundation for the Support of the United Nations), said that “a multilateral talks with claimant countries is the most appropriate thing to do.”

"Everyone must work for a peaceful resolution at the Spratly islands that is economically beneficial to all claimants. The ultimate goal must be stability in the region. The Spratly is like a hallway in Southeast Asia and all competing claims be resolved in a multilateral talks initiated by the UN," Valera added.

The MHC, a non-profit organization, provides services to immigrants in the United States.
The Spratly chain of islands is claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

“The Spratlys could not be claimed solely by one Southeast Asian country because historically and naturally it has been used and occupied by various countries,” MHC noted.
"The Asian region does not need any instability at this time. Peaceful resolutions are still the best way to avert any untoward war or brewing armed confrontation among and between claimants," said Grace Valera-Jaramillo, a co-executive director of MHC.

Another MHC co-director, Jesse Gatchalian, said that “the Philippines must articulate an independent foreign policy consistent with its constitution and in line with the treaties it signed as a non-aligned nation.”

MHC, however, said that any intrusion within the boundaries of the Philippines should be denounced in the international community as a hostile act and an act of aggression against a sovereign, independent nation and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

The Spratly group of islands is said to have potentially 213 billion barrels of oil beneath its seabed, making the region oil-rich, second to Saudi Arabia.

“Any discovery of the existence of the rich underwater oil fields and hydrocarbon resources in the area should benefit all the claimants and the region. This is the time for China and the Philippines to take the high moral ground and resolve this never-ending historical claims peacefully and diplomatically,” the MHC press statement said. 

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