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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Intl support for PH in sea disputes ‘growing’

BY JOEL M. SY EGCO SENIOR REPORTER
http://www.manilatimes.net/breaking_news/intl-support-for-ph-in-sea-disputes-growing/

Malacañang on Tuesday said international support for the Philippines’ position on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is “growing” even beyond the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) where a code of conduct is being hammered out among claimant countries to settle the disputes.

“There are other international bodies that are providing support such as the European Union and the European community. So we will just continue to rely on expressions, manifestations and demonstrations of international solidarity,” said Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Tuesday.

He noted that besides the “willingness on the part of the affected member nations to concretely spell out the parameters for addressing the issues in the South China Sea or in the West Philippine Sea,” a US State Department statement calling on Beijing to “refrain from provocative actions in the South China Sea” was a welcome development.

“We are also rallying our people to be cognizant of the important national interest that is at stake,” Coloma added.

In the light of the US government’s statement of support, the Palace official said President Benigno Aquino 3rd and US President Barack Obama are most likely to discuss security issues at the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) during the latter’s visit in Manila later this month.

“Defense and security will definitely be a topic in the talks between President Aquino and President Obama. And when you talk of this topic, the most relevant issue that can be discussed would be the West Philippine Sea. So, it is entirely within the realm of possibility,” Coloma told a press briefing in Malacanang.

US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf called on Beijing to “refrain from provocative actions in the South China Sea” following an incident near the disputed Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) where Chinese coastguard ships tried to block a civilian ship from sending supplies to soldiers stationed there.

The State department official also described last Saturday’s incident as “destabilizing.”

“As a treaty ally of the Republic of the Philippines, the United States urges China to refrain from further provocative behavior by allowing the Philippines to continue to maintain its presence at Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal),” she said.

Besides the sea disputes, Coloma said the two leaders are also likely to tackle the planned rotational presence of American troops in Philippine military camps.

“There are other issues that will be tackled since what is involved here is strategic partnership between two countries,” the Palace official said.

Coloma also explained that there are several avenues for multilateral action, one of which is the Asean, where leaders have agreed to flesh out the decade-old declaration of the Code of Conduct.

Another avenue, he explained, is through arbitration as shown by the Philippines’ filing of a memorial before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

“Our claims on the territories in the West Philippine Sea are sufficiently amplified and justified in our filing of the Memorial,” Coloma further said.

“We are doing what is needed. We are doing what we are capable of doing in terms of the actual conditions obtaining the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Coloma stressed that all the steps the government has taken were “in consonance with the policy of pursuing our position in a peaceful and democratic manner while enjoining the international community to join cause with us in asserting the primacy of the rule of law.”

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