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Philippines need international opinion on shoal

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government should seek an “international opinion” stating that the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal standoff must be settled through an international court, former defense secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. said yesterday.

Cruz said the Philippines should reiterate its stand that the issue be addressed through a rules-based approach under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Cruz said the Philippines would no longer be bullied if it is backed by the international community.

“They cannot just bully us if we have something from an international body (which states) that this (area) is ours,” he said in Filipino.

 “At the end of the day, we need to create an international opinion that this (standoff) should be brought before an international tribunal,” Cruz told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

 “It is important that we pursue our game plan under the United Nations’ law of the sea. Under the UNCLOS, it is clear that the Panatag Shoal is within our territory. The behavior in the area should be rules-based,” he added.

 Cruz however cited the need to improve maritime capabilities and patrols in the area.
 “It is very important to increase our maritime capability so the Coast Guard would have the capability to respond to the actuations of China,” he said.

The former defense chief said the government should come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with the standoff.
 Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the government has nobody to rely on concerning the issue of maritime disputes but itself, not the United States or any of its neighboring countries in the region.

 “We can go to international court, we are a peaceful country and we abide by the law of peaceful nations,” he said.

 Enrile said the Philippine government should stop begging for help from the United States to protect its own territory.

“We should rely on our own selves in terms of protecting our territory. Nobody will come to our aide but our own,” he said over dzBB radio. “Let us not rely on others in terms of security.”

 While the Philippines has economic and diplomatic relations with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Senate President said each country has its own interest to protect.

US military aid too small

 Enrile believes that the Philippines deserves more than the $30-million military aid pledged by the United States.

 He said the government’s requirement is more than that, given that its standoff with China has shown the urgency of upgrading its military defense assets.

 The $30-million military package was pledged by US during the recent two-plus-two meeting of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Defense Chief Voltaire Gazmin in Washington.

Enrile said the assistance was part of American commitment under the Mutual Defense Treaty and a military assistance agreement with US.

Alexis Romero | The Philippine Star | May 7, 2012 | Article Link


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