Philippines: Uphold rule of law on Spratlys dispute

Posted at 06/18/11 4:54 PM

Aquino says Beijing can't bully Manila

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Rule of law should be followed on the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, according to the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.

In a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine mission said it rejected efforts to broaden disputes in the West Philippine Sea during the 21st Meeting of States Parties to the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) held from June 13 to 17.

"The rule of law is the bedrock of peace, order and fairness in modern societies. The rise of a rules-based international system has been the great equalizer in global affairs. Respect and adherence to international law have preserved peace and resolved conflicts. International law has given equal voice to nations regardless of political, economic or military stature, banishing the unlawful use of sheer force," the Philippine mission stressed.

The Philippines reiterated its stand on the issue, even as President Benigno Aquino III told the Associated Press (AP) that he will not allow Beijing to bully Manila.

Aquino said the Philippines does not need to ask anyone's permission to explore for gas in its territory.

China earlier demanded that other countries seek permission from Beijing before exploring for gas in the West Philippine Sea.

"We're not going to engage in an arms race with them. We are not going to escalate the tensions there but we do have to protect our rights and that has to be very very clear, we will not be pushed around because we are a tiny state compared with theirs," Aquino told AP.

"We think we have very solid grounds to say that 'do not intrude into our territory' and that is not a source of dispute or should not be a source of dispute," he added.

'Follow UNCLOS'

Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs Secretariat Secretary General Henry Bensurto, in a statement delivered during the U.N. meeting, said "recent developments in the Recto Bank have tended to broaden the concept of disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea to include even those waters and continental shelves that are clearly within the sovereignty and/or jurisdiction of the Philippines."

"The Philippines firmly rejects any efforts in this regard.  Such actions are inconsistent with U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea," he added.

Bensurto said the Philippines will follow international law, specifically the UNCLOS, which is considered the world's constitution on oceans. He urged other countries to follow suit. "We expect nothing less from our international partners."

"In situations where disputes on maritime claims exist, UNCLOS provides clues as well as answers by which such maritime disputes could be addressed," he added.

Bensurto also urged all parties to the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea to uphold the the declaration's provisions, particularly paragraph 5 that mandates all signatories to "exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability."
During the meeting, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, and Singapore issued respective national statements echoing the Philippines' stand to maintain peace and security in the West Philippine Sea, and for all parties to recognize the primacy of the UNCLOS.

The 6 countries also called for the peaceful resolution of the territorial disputes over the Spratly islands.