Philippines offers to transform disputed islands into zone of peace
By ROY C. MABASA
June 10, 2011, 6:44pm
MANILA Philippines -- The Philippines is offering to transform the disputed Spratlys Islands into a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship, and Cooperation (ZoPFF/C) for all claimant-countries.
Under this framework offered by the Philippines, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said disputed areas will be segregated from the undisputed areas consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“In the words of President Benigno S. Aquino III, ZoPFF/C is a modality for ensuring that ‘what is ours is ours, and with what is disputed, we can work toward joint cooperation,’” Del Rosario explained.
He cited as an example Recto (Reed) Bank which is part of the continental shelf of the western coast of Palawan. It is about 85 nautical miles from the nearest coast of Palawan and therefore well within the 200 nautical miles Continental Shelf of the Philippine archipelago under UNCLOS. In contrast, it is roughly 595 nautical miles from the nearest coast of China.
“This means that the Philippines has unequivocal sovereign rights over Recto (Reed) Bank,” Del Rosario said. “Since the Recto (Reed) Bank is ours, it can only be exclusively developed by the Philippines. The Philippines may, however, invite foreign investors to assist in developing the area in accordance with Philippine laws.”
Del Rosario said the disputed features can be transformed into a joint cooperation area for joint development and the establishment of a marine protected area for biodiversity conservation under ZoPFF/C.
“We are confident that ZoPFF/C represents an important contribution to securing peace, stability, and progress in the South China Sea within a rule-of-law framework, and that the concept deserves serious and favorable consideration by countries with stakes in the South China Sea,” Del Rosario said.
China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the entire Spratly Islands, while Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines claim portions of the disputed area in the South China Sea. Except for Brunei, all the claimants are currently occupying islands or reefs.
Despite protests from other claimants, including the Philippines, China has unremittingly asserted its territorial sovereignty over the islands, adjacent waters, seabed and subsoil in the entire South China Sea using the “9-discontinued-and-dotted line” found on Chinese maps dating back to 1947 in its claims to the disputed area.
The dotted line encloses the main island features of the South China Sea: the Pratas Islands, the Paracel Islands, the Macclesfield Bank, and the Spratly Islands. The dotted line also captures James Shoal which is as far south as 4 degrees north latitude.
Del Rosario said the ZoPFF/C proposal is being offered to China and all other claimant states as he stressed that a rules-based regime is a requisite for securing peace and stability in that part of the region.
“The rule of law is the bedrock of peace, order, and fairness in modern societies. The rise of a rules-based in-ternational 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,” Del Rosario stated.
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the Philippines should not be bullied by the “undiplomatic posturing” of the People’s Republic of China (PROC) over the disputed Spratlys island chain.
He slammed the position of China that other nations must first seek its permission in moving about the waters in the disputed Spratlys island.
Pangilinan said this position is “high-handed and arrogant.”
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he respects the opinion of China and the Chinese government but “they have to understand that we also have a voice to raise whenever we feel that they are intruding into our domain.”
“We are not criticizing them, we are just saying that, ‘well, in our opinion, you are intruding in our domain.’ If you are not, well, say so that you are not, that you have no aggressive intention against this country. But for heaven’s sake, don’t lecture us because we can equally lecture you even if you are a giant,’’ he said.
The Senate chief said that this is normally the attitude of a powerful country against a weak country.
Enrile conceded that the Philippines, being bullied by a bigger and stronger country, could not even act as a flea “because we do not have a sting.”
“Coming as it does from the second largest economy in the world is quite disturbing,” Pangilinan.
Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the government is not about to wage any war in case another foreign nation tries to take control of the country.
Ochoa said the government would exhaust diplomatic means to resolve any foreign aggression related to national sovereignty.
Ochoa highlighted Section 2 of Article II of the Constitution which states that the country “adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations.”
“This government is always prepared to use diplomacy to protect the interests and welfare of our country on the world stage,” Ochoa added. (With reports from Mario B. Casayuran and Genalyn D. Kabiling)
What's that? "What's yours is yours, what's mine is mine, and whatever is under dispute we can work things out." Eh? And that's the solution he came up with?!?
Note that the our foreign minister here (Del Rosario) seems to be distancing himself from No-Balls' proposed solution....