Thursday, July 19, 2012

Palace to China: Match your words with action

The Philippines would not abdicate its sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea despite China’s continuous deployment of vessels and the establishment of a legislative body to oversee three disputed islands, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Beijing should also match its words with action to attain peace in the region.

“In no way do we abdicate our sovereign rights over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal because it is part of our exclusive economic zone and that’s very important for us – both domestically and internationally,” Lacierda said.

“They have stated openly, very recently, (China’s leader-in-waiting) Xi Jinping has already mentioned that... they would prefer a peaceful resolution,” he added. Asked if the Philippines was hoping that China would match its words with action, Lacierda said, “Of course.”

Lacierda said the “thrust of our policy is to maintain a stance of peaceful resolution” even in Panatag Shoal, where Chinese vessels had maintained presence despite its proximity to the Philippines.

He said the Philippines relates with China on different levels and is confident that continuing exchanges would help promote a harmonious relationship between the two countries.

He noted that President Aquino thanked China for its help in the completion of a La Mesa Dam project.

Lacierda said the situation had not worsened, as “there were instances” that vessels were withdrawn from Panatag Shoal.

“They are back obviously. But China has not taken any provocative action in terms of military action. And so, since there has been no military action, we are always hopeful that a peaceful resolution will be maintained by both parties,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda refused to comment on reports that China had sent a submersible to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), saying it is highly speculative at this point.

The mission of the submersible is reportedly to be “part of the preparations for future commercial mining of the seabed.”

“They have stated as much but we don’t know yet if they are traversing in international waters and obviously there is freedom of navigation in international waters and no one can stop any country from traversing these waters,” he said.

Lacierda denied that China’s aggressive moves were connected with the Philippines’ decision to seek help from the United States.

“Without the Philippines, the United States has adopted a rebalancing doctrine wherein they have... reoriented 60 percent of their forces to the Pacific. That has been the new doctrine of the United States and it applies to the Asia Pacific region, not specifically the Philippines. It’s a doctrine that applies to the entire Asia Pacific,” Lacierda said.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces Western Command (Wescom) chief Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban said around 30 Chinese fishing boats escorted by a maritime ship were spotted in the vicinity of Kagitingan Reef – known internationally as Johnson Reef – in the West Philippine Sea.

The fleet reportedly includes a 3,000-ton supply ship and a patrol vessel and is said to be the largest ever launched from Hainan province.

“This is about 100 (nautical) miles southwest of Pag-asa,” Sabban said, referring to an island within Kalayaan municipality in Palawan. Kagitingan Reef is being claimed by the Philippines as it is well within the hexagon area that comprises Kalayaan town.-The Philippine Star (July 19, 2102)

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