MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government has commended the country's largest book and school and office supplies retailer for "demonstrating its patriotism" in pulling out China-manufactured educational globes from its shelves.
In a letter addressed to Cecilia Ramos Licauco, vice president for purchasing of National Book Store Inc., Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said even President Aquino was "delighted and proud" of the bookstore chain's "selfless and patriotic action."
"As a major provider of educational products in the Philippines, National Book Store plays a valuable role in enriching the knowledge of young Filipinos. I was highly encouraged by your management's decision to withdraw the China-manufactured educational globes from your retail stores following our discussion on the misinformation contained in these globes on China's contentious nine-dash line encompassing virtually the entire West Philippine Sea. Your resolve in immediately implementing this decision reflected your company's strong sense of nationalism and above economic profit," Del Rosario said in his letter dated February 15, 2013.
The DFA chief also told Licauco that the arbitral proceedings initiated by the Philippines against China on the nine-dash line is entering a "critical juncture".
"It is vital that the Filipino people stand in unity to defend 'what is ours' on accordance with the Philippine Constitution. I believe that National Book Stores' example will inspire Filipinos to express their patriotism in their own individual capacities," Del Rosario added.
The education globes showed Beijing's claims to a large part of the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.
In January, the Philippines initiated arbitration to resolve the dispute between it and China regarding a number of areas in the South China Sea.
The Philippines said it took China before an Arbitral Tribunal under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) "to achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea."
Both the Philippines and China signed the UNCLOS.
The Philippines has been claiming that Scarborough Shoal, which triggered a standoff between Manila and Beijing in April, is within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines as provided for under the UNCLOS. China, on the other hand, has been claiming the territory on the basis of historical claims.
Del Rosario has said the Philippines asserts that China's so-called nine-dash line claim that encompasses virtually the entire South China/West Philippine Sea is contrary to UNCLOS and thus unlawful.
The DFA chief has added that Manila is hoping that the arbitration tribunal will direct China to respect the Philippines' sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its EEZ, continental shelf, contiguous zone, and territorial sea over the West Philippine Sea.
Arbitration has been defined both by the 1899 and 1907 Hague conventions as "the settlement of differences between judges of their own choice and on the basis of respect for law."
An arbitration tribunal may be composed of a single arbitrator or a collegiate body. Contracting parties would have to shoulder arbitration costs.
As for the cost of the proceedings that the Filipino people would have to pay for, Del Rosario said "one can not put a price in the concerted effort of the Filipino people and government in defending our patrimony, territory, national interest and national honor."
He said the arbitration proceedings may last between three and four years.
Meanwhile, Zhang Hua, Deputy Chief of Political Section and Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy, has said the "disputes on South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned through negotiations."
"This (settlement of disputes through negotiations) is also the consensus reached by parties concerned in the DOC (The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea)," Zhang has said in a text message.