5 lawmakers plan Spratlys trip on Wednesday | Inquirer News

5 lawmakers plan Spratlys trip on Wednesday

/ 02:50 AM July 19, 2011

Five congressmen are planning a trip to disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on Wednesday, asserting the country’s claim on oil-and-gas-rich areas in a move expected to draw protests from other claimants.

The visit coincides with a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers and 17 regional partners, including China and the United States, at an annual security forum.

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The lawmakers allied with President Aquino have chartered a civilian plane to land on Pagasa (Hope) Island, the largest of nine territories held by the Philippines, taking along journalists.

“This is not a field trip,” Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello told a news conference, describing the planned Spratlys tour as a “peace mission.”

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“This is not a military operation. This is purely a civilian peace and sovereignty mission to support our rightful claims.”

Bello said the delegation also planned a boat ride around Pagasa Island and an aerial tour of the disputed territories, flying over areas held by China and Vietnam.

“I don’t expect to be brought down by antiaircraft guns,” he said.

Analysts expect other states to protest the lawmakers’ trip to the Spratlys in light of recent tensions over competing claims.

“The most urgent business is to take measures to deescalate the tensions and for all parties to show self-restraint,” said Aileen Baviera, the former dean of the University of the Philippines’ Asian Center.

“Only this will restore the atmosphere for dialogue. Then, the Asean and China must sit together to discuss a regional code of conduct that focuses on conflict avoidance, demilitarization and prevention of accidents at sea.” Reports from Cynthia D. Balana and Reuters

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TAGS: Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, lawmakers’ visit, Peace Mission, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Space Administration (PAGASA), Spratly Islands, Sptralys, West Philippine Sea
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