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Australia to sea claimants: Resolve dispute peacefully

President Aquino welcomes Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop during a courtesy call at Malacañang yesterday. At right is Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. WILLY PEREZ                                

MANILA, Philippines - Visiting Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her country does not take sides in the South China Sea dispute, but urges all claimants to resolve their differences peacefully and lawfully.   

Various claims in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea) and concerns over growing tensions in the area were discussed in yesterday’s 4th Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Bishop said Australia and Philippines had a lengthy discussion on the challenges facing the region in terms of territorial claims in the South China Sea, as well as in the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands between Japan and China in the East China Sea.               

Australia urged all parties not to escalate tensions and to recognize that many countries have interest in ensuring peace.

“We believe that there should be consultation, that there should be dialogue in the case of the South China Sea. We support ASEAN objectives in concluding a Code of Conduct with China and we hope that there will be some early progress on that Code of Conduct,” Bishop said, noting that Australia has legitimate interest in these matters.

Expressing concern on the stability and peace in the region, Bishop stressed the role of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in the peaceful resolution of the sea row.

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario informed Australia about a memorial to be submitted by the Philippines on March 30 to the arbitral body under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) before which it has filed a case over the territorial dispute.

The Philippines has maintained that the core issue in the dispute was China’s sovereignty stand on almost the entire South China Sea, which it said was a gross violation of the international law.

Because of this, the Philippines had to look for other means to address the issue, including mechanisms that would manage the tension and settle the disputes.

In terms of managing tension, the Philippines told Australian delegates that it relied on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), as Manila looks for a speedy conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).

“In terms of settling the dispute, we are looking for clarification and entitlement of all parties, not only China and Philippines, but all countries that use the seaways for their trade. We believe that we have exhausted all possibilities,” Del Rosario told journalists during a briefing. – With Alexis Romero                                     



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