Palace: Phl does not owe China explanation over Ayungin Shoal

Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines does not owe China any explanation on what it does in Ayungin Shoal and will continue to fight for its territory in a peaceful way.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte reiterated the Philippines wants a peaceful resolution and development of the West Philippine Sea even as China issued the nine-dash claim over the whole of the maritime region that included some areas of the country.

Asked whether China could be trusted on its pronouncements that it also wanted peaceful resolution and development of the region, Valte said this was why the Philippines wanted the dispute to be brought before an arbitral tribunal.

She said this was precisely to ask the “theory of the nine-dash line claim” of China to be passed upon.

The international arbitral tribunal will soon hear the case the Philippines filed against China on the West Philippine Sea dispute.

The tribunal is composed of Judges Chris Pinto of Sri Lanka, Jean-Pierre Cot of France, Alfred Soons of Netherlands, Stanislaw Pawlak of Poland (who was appointed by International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas president Shunji Yanai), and Rudiger Wolfrum of Germany (nominated by the Philippines). Pinto heads the arbitral panel.

Valte, meanwhile, said the report about Filipino fishermen needing to ask permission from the Chinese Navy to fish even in Philippine-claimed areas would have to be verified.

“We have chosen to undertake a peaceful resolution, it has been a deliberate choice to make sure that we do not respond to any provocative actions or statements,” she said.

“And lastly, we’d just like to reiterate that we cannot speculate at this point how long this will take but we will abide by international laws. We have been abiding by our commitments, and we will leave the resolution of it to the processes that we have chosen to undertake.”


‘Minimum defense posture’

Valte said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez had explained the Philippines was not building structures in Ayungin Shoal in response to Beijing’s inquiry through Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing.

The DFA, through Hernandez on Thursday, declared China has no right to dictate to the Philippines what it can do within its own maritime domain.

Hernandez pointed out the Philippines exercises jurisdiction and sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea and has all the right to undertake lawful activities within its maritime domain without any interference or objection by any other state.

Valte echoed the statements of Hernandez, saying China is not in any position to dictate what the Philippines should do with what properly belongs to the country.

“At least from the point of view of our government, we’ve repeatedly asked them to leave Ayungin. We’ve also made the necessary representations through the proper channels and we keep reiterating the need for them to leave given that… that particular area belongs to this country,” Valte said.

Valte said the Philippines is exerting efforts to protect its maritime territory with “a minimum credible defense posture.”

Asked how long would the Philippines allow China’s bullying, Valte said “as far as we are concerned, we’ve taken the matter to the proper forum and we will let that procedure take its course.”

Valte said it was also no secret that the country had been investing in the military upgrade to able to defend its territory from threats.

In a recent speech before Navy personnel in Cavite, President Aquino declared that “what is ours is ours” and that the Armed Forces of the Philipines (AFP) was capable of defending the country’s outlying islands.

Gazmin, for his part, later declared the military would fight “to the last soldier” in defense of the country.

Aquino also vowed to provide funds for the equipment modernization of the AFP.

‘Very complex situation’

Former defense secretary Renato de Villa said the government should move fast in modernizing the military to enable it to defend the country’s territorial integrity.

While the country has competent military personnel, De Villa said the Armed Forces remains weak in terms of equipment.

“We have good outstanding officers and personnel in the armed forces but in the modern world, you also need modern equipment in order to (have) credible and capable armed forces,” he said.

De Villa stressed the need to hasten the purchase of key military equipment for territorial defense. He said ships and aircraft are critical requirements for a mission to defend national territory and protection of the country’s sovereignty.

De Villa, who served as defense chief from 1991 to 1997, said the territorial row in the West Philippine Sea is not likely to end soon.

“My thinking is this will go on for some time and of course we hope it will not get any hotter than what it is now. We can expect this problem will stay with us probably for a decade or more,” he said.

De Villa said the country is facing “a very complex situation” where diplomacy, international relations and the Filipinos’ sense of a nation should come into play. – With Alexis Romero, Jess Diaz, Jaime Laude













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