Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Manila won’t back down on West PHL Sea claims — Palace official

The Philippines will not withdraw from its rights over the West Philippine Sea amid conflicts with China, and will continue to pursue the disputes through peaceful and diplomatic means, Malacañang said Tuesday.

“I think that we will maintain our sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zone,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said at a briefing. “That is something that we will not give up.”

But Lacierda also clarified that the Philippines has never used any other means aside from diplomacy in solving its issues with China.

“We have not used our military force,” he said. “We have always maintained that the only resolution to this incident is a peaceful solution – a peaceful resolution to the problem.”

China and the Philippines have been locked in a standoff since April over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, when poaching Chinese fishermen were protected by their country's forces after Philippine authorities tried to make arrests.

The shoal west of Masinloc in Zambales province is within Philippine territorial limits, but China invoked historical claims to the area.

Lacierda had no doubts about who really has claims over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

“Scarborough is not a disputed territory. Scarborough is within our exclusive economic zone,” Lacierda said.

On Monday, 30 Chinese fishing vessels were reported to have returned in the disputed Spratly Islands, where both China and the Philippines also have overlapping claims, as well as Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei.

Because of this development, the Philippines warned China to steer clear of its 200-nautical-mile EEZ.

The EEZ is a maritime area within 200 nautical miles from a country’s baseline. A country has rights over the economic resources of the sea, seabed, and subsoil to the exclusion of other states within its EEZ.

This zone is a provision of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which China and the Philippines are signatories.

“The Chinese fishing vessels must not intrude in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. We require China to respect the sovereign rights of the Philippines over the resources within our EEZ,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said.-GMA News (July 6:29PM)

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