PH calls for joint cooperation in Spratlys
The Philippines has appealed anew to the five other Spratlys claimant-countries to seriously consider its proposal to transform the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) “from a zone of dispute into a zone of peace, freedom, friendship and cooperation.”
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said it was “imperative for concerned parties to take concrete steps to ease tension in the area through dialogue and diplomacy.”
Common Asean stand
Aside from the Philippines, the Spratly islands are also being claimed wholly or in part by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier met with diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), whom he asked to “take a common position and, as a family of nations, together seek common approaches in addressing challenges.”
Del Rosario called the meeting to brief the Asean ambassadors on his proposal for a “rules-based regime,” under which disputed territories can be designated as a joint cooperation area among their claimants.
Del Rosario emphasized that turning the contested waters into a “zone of peace, freedom, friendship and cooperation was a key in “advancing a peaceful settlement of disputes.”
Meanwhile, the DFA welcomed the “unanimous approval” by the US Senate of its resolution on the Spratlys.
“It supports the Philippine government’s proposal for the multilateral and peaceful resolution of competing claims in the disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea … We thank (Democratic) Senator Jim Webb and (Republican) Senator Jim Inhofe for sponsoring the resolution,” said Foreign Assistant Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya, also DFA spokesperson.
Use of force
On Monday, the US Senate deplored China’s “use of force” in the West Philippine Sea.
In a resolution, it urged peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the area, said an AP report.
The measure was adopted in response to recent incidents involving Chinese vessels and those of the Philippines and Vietnam, which also claim disputed islands in the potentially resource-rich waters.
But China on Wednesday reiterated that it has “indisputable sovereignty” over islands in the South China Sea after the US pledged to help the Philippines, which has its own claims in the area.
A spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Yang Yi, also repeated the government position that safeguarding the sovereignty of the area’s potentially resource-rich islets was a “common responsibility” for Beijing and Taipei.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters,” Yang told reporters, according to an official transcript.
China has insisted it wants to resolve the territorial dispute peacefully but remained firm in its claims to most of the South China Sea, even waters within the Philippines’ economic exclusion zone.
Referring to what China considers meddling by Washington, ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said the other day South China Sea disputes should be resolved peacefully through talks between “directly concerned parties.”
“Others without a direct stake should respect the efforts made by those directly concerned to resolve South China Sea disputes through dialogue and in a peaceful manner,” Hong also said, adding “the relevant resolution adopted by the US Senate doesn’t hold water.”
On Tuesday, the US and the Philippines launched joint naval exercises in Philippine waters close to the much coveted South China Sea.
The commander of the US 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, described America and the Philippines as “allies” and said “that is the strongest and most enduring commitment the two nations can make”.
“Our alliance is underpinned by a deep and abiding US interest in the freedom and security of the Republic of the Philippines,” he added. With a report from AFP
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