PHL to continue claim of West Philippine Sea through diplomacy, Palace says

July 17, 2012 10:04 pm 

MANILA, July 17 — Malacanang said the Philippines isn’t hampered by the absence of the joint statement in the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting in Cambodia, saying the country would continue finding a peaceful solution to the disputed West Philippine Sea.

ASEAN foreign ministers had earlier agreed to key elements on the code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea, but for some reason, a joint communiqué was not issued at the end of the ministerial meeting.

In April, during the ASEAN leader’s summit in Cambodia, the chair removed the West Philippine Sea issue from the agenda despite Manila’s insistence. Cambodia is this year’s ASEAN Summit chair.

“We are not hampered by the absence of a joint communiqué. It certainly would have helped us but we are not hampered by the absence of a joint communiqué,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a media briefing in Malacanang on Tuesday.

Asked by reporters what would be President Benigno S. Aquino III’s approach when he goes back to Cambodia this November for the ASEAN Summit, Lacierda said the President will certainly back the ASEAN centrality.

“Number one, tingnan natin kung ano ang magiging developments from here on until the next meeting of the ASEAN leaders. But definitely, one thing that the President has emphasized and will emphasize again in the coming meeting will be the ASEAN centrality,” he said.

“That has always been the whole idea of ASEAN being a regional bloc — it is to emphasize the centrality of ASEAN. But between now and until the next meeting of the leaders, there may be some developments and we won’t be able to speculate as to what precisely the President will speak on," he said.

As to statements saying the Philippines should give up its territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea because of the absence of a strong military, Lacierda said the country’s approach is to push for a peaceful solution through diplomatic means.

“They’re looking at it from a strictly military point of view and that’s not where we’re coming from. We’re coming from a perspective where we believe that a diplomatic peaceful solution can be achieved. And that’s what we’ve been hammering on and that’s what we believe in, and that’s the position we will continue to maintain,” he said. (PNA)

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