PHL's Spratly proposal maintains regional peace

October 12, 2011 9:57 pm 

MANILA, Oct. 12 — The Philippine proposal for the adoption of the Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation (ZoPFF/C) to resolve the Spratly Islands dispute has been an effective way of maintaining peace in the controversial regime of islands, President Benigno Aquino III said on Wednesday.

In an open forum with the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) in Makati City, the President said there has been an agreement as far as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is concerned with regards to the Philippine proposal.

“But, again, the fundamental question with regards to China and the nine-dash line and the incompatibility with the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) is still there. And I think the focus should be that we are not escalating tensions to the point that conflict becomes a logical conclusion,” the President said addressing the question about the disputed West Philippine Sea.

“The adherents or all parties concerned to declaring a zone of peace is a very healthy development and refocuses everybody on how best to resolve this without resorting to any untoward violent incidents and that, I think, is an achievement by itself,” he added.

The ASEAN Maritime Legal Experts’ Meeting in Manila, held from September 22 to 23 this year, extensively discussed the Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation initiative in the light of relevant international law principles on the regime of islands, maritime zones, and maritime delimitation.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the maritime legal experts affirmed the ASEAN’s commitment to the peaceful and rules-based approach to the resolution of disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting tasked the ASEAN Senior Officials, with the assistance of maritime legal experts, to seriously study the ZoPFF/C proposed by the Philippines during their July meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

With regards to the Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea, the President said that things are moving in crafting generally accepted code for all parties. ASEAN states and the People’s Republic of China agreed in November 2002 for the adoption of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“Nine years after, at least this thing is moving. And we have committed to ASEAN centrality with regards to handling any multilateral talks. So I think we are on track. There is a need for consensus —we are a very diverse group of 10 countries that have various parochial concerns,” President Aquino said.

Commenting on bringing the West Philippine Sea issue before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas the Chief Executive said there is a need for China to agree in joining the Philippines whether to bring it before the international body.

Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all claim at least some part of the West Philippine Sea. The region is believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits and also a major sea lane of the world’s ship-borne trade.

Tensions between China, Vietnam and the Philippines heightened this year over the disputed West Philippine Sea claims. (PNA)

LDV/PCOO/ssc

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