PRESIDENTIAL candidate Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on Thursday slammed the administration of President Benigno Aquino III for being complacent on the West Philippine Sea dispute, and for being confident that the international tribunal will rule in its favor on the case it filed against China.
She also hit the government for relying heavily on US support to deter Chinese expansionism, noting that both military giants have interests in controlling the West Philippine Sea.
China has reportedly stationed up to five ships in the contested Quirino Island, barring access to Filipino fisherman, a move which Santiago said highlights failure of negotiations despite ongoing international arbitration.
Under her administration, the government will take a more proactive approach in resolving the West Philippine Sea dispute, Santiago said.
“It is not true at all that the arbitral tribunal may decide on the Philippine side in the face of China’s excepting itself from the application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos], Articles 297 and 298,” she said.
The two Unclos articles outline the cases that may be submitted for jurisdiction, as well as limits to arbitration. Article 298 particularly states that “a State may… declare in writing that it does not accept any one or more of the procedures…”
She noted that the dispute with China requires a second level of diplomacy as the other party takes keen interest in bilateral negotiation bordering on conciliation, relying on the principles set forth in the Unclos, Part XV, Section 1,” Santiago said.
The Unclos, Article 280, states the right to “…agree at any time to settle a dispute between them concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention by any peaceful means of their own choice.”
The senator, who is also chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and the legislative oversight committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement, rallied her colleagues in January to assert that any treaty, including the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US, is void without Senate concurrence.
The Supreme Court has since ruled on the validity of the Edca, which it considered an executive agreement implementing the VFA. The Senate has joined Santiago in 2009 to call for a renegotiation of the VFA, or its abrogation if the US refuses to negotiate.
Santiago said her administration will not depend on US support to resolve a dispute with a neighboring country. “If elected, I will negotiate with China together with other Asian countries,” she added.
But President Aquino on Thursday again slammed China for refusing to talk to the Philippines, saying his government has been trying to talk to them for a long time.
“I have been trying to talk to them. The problem is when I do try to talk to them, they would say: ‘All of these are ours,’” Aquino said in his speech in Tagbilaran, Bohol.
“What negotiation will we do if that is their view? ‘These are all ours, do not enter,” Aquino said.
“To my mind, these [territories in the West Philippine Sea] have been ours. So, we have been fighting for this, we are in arbitration, we are in the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” the President said.
Aquino made his remarks while on the campaign trail with his anointed presidential candidate, Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II.
The Palace said Thursday the Philippines will maintain its stand to resolve all issues in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea, through diplomatic means.
The statement came a day after the United States warned China against militarization of the South China Sea, where Beijing is locked in a territorial dispute with several countries, saying there would be consequences.
The Foreign Affairs Department also called on China to exercise self restraint, saying its activities could complicate the dispute in the South China Sea.
The department referred to an incident two weeks ago when Chinese coast guard vessels were sighted in Quirino atoll.
Beijing confirmed that the vessels were there, but said they were merely towing a grounded ship and had already left the area.
Leftist youth groups on Thursday maintained their attacks against China but also denounced the United States as “another warmonger.”
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