US lawmakers back Philippines in dispute over Spratlys | Inquirer News

US lawmakers back Philippines in dispute over Spratlys

Thirty-one members of the US House of Representatives, led by the chairs of the committee on foreign affairs and subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, have jointly sponsored a symbolic resolution backing the Philippines’ call for a multilateral and rules-based approach to settling the disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The measure also condemned the “use of force and overt threats in resolving disputes” in the strategic and resource-rich area, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Sunday.

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Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario welcomed the move, pointing out anew that “the Philippines is a small country, but it is prepared and committed to do what is necessary to stand up to any aggressive action in our backyard.”

Del Rosario said Manila officials “welcome the support of US congressmen to the Philippine position with respect to the West Philippine Sea issue. Indeed the Philippines strongly believes that a rules-based approach provides the key to validating our claims and advancing the peaceful and fair settlement of the dispute in the area.”

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In a report to the DFA, the Philippine Embassy in Washington said the House resolution was filed on Friday by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican, Florida), chair of the foreign affairs committee; and Representatives Dan Manzullo (Republican, Illinois) and Eni Faleomavaega (Democrat, American Samoa), chair and ranking member of the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, respectively.

The measure “also had 27 (18 Republicans and nine Democrats) cosponsors,” the embassy noted.

Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesperson, said the resolution “highlighted certain provisions,” including a statement issued by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Washington was “determined and committed to supporting the defense of the Philippines.”

“There’s also a provision saying that the United States (on June 23) stated that it was ready to provide hardware to modernize the military of the Philippines,” Hernandez added.

On June 27, the US Senate unanimously approved a resolution deploring the use of force by Chinese vessels in territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

Tensions in the contested waters have escalated in recent weeks, with the Philippines and Vietnam alarmed at what they say are increasingly aggressive actions by China.

China has repeatedly called for bilateral, instead of multilateral, talks with claimant-countries.

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Aside from the Philippines and China, the Spratlys are also being claimed in whole or in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

During her recent meeting with Del Rosario in Washington, Clinton said supporting the defense of the Philippines would mean “finding ways of providing affordable material and equipment that will assist the Philippine military to take the steps necessary to defend itself.”

For his part, Del Rosario said that with the growing tension in the West Philippine Sea, Manila would “do what is necessary to stand up to any aggressive action.”

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TAGS: American Samoa), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Florida, Illinois) and Eni Faleomavaega (Democrat, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican, Representatives Dan Manzullo (Republican, Spratly Islands, Spratlys, territorial disputes, US House of Representatives, West Philippine Sea
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