Sunday, April 22, 2012
Conquering Panatag Shoal
The University of the Philippines, meanwhile, took down its website Friday after it was allegedly hacked by unidentified supporters of China.
“We have always conducted our actions knowing that our goal, one of our immediate goals, is really to de-escalate tensions. This will be to the benefit of all parties if tension is really lowered and we hope that it will help in the negotiation,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over radio station dzRB.
Valte also said it would be up to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to determine whether the Philippines should ask Beijing to replace its current ambassador Ma Keqing, who was reportedly becoming impolite and impatient in talking to Philippine officials.
“We will let the DFA take the lead on that one,” Valte said.
Valte said it was not the Philippines that was aggravating tensions in Panatag Shoal.
“That is a matter of perspective and maybe from our side our commitment was to de-escalate tensions and we are doing just that. We have been consistently reiterating that the diplomatic track is the track that we have chosen to take and that everything that we do is in furtherance of taking that track,” Valte said.
Valte added the security of government websites would be strengthened after the UP hacking incident.
She also said it would be up to the Philippine Coast Guard to protect Filipino fishermen sailing to Panatag, originally called Bajo de Masinloc during the Spanish period.
She said it would be advisable for Filipino fishermen to avoid the area for the time being.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said other ASEAN members should make a stand on the issue if they want to preserve freedom of navigation in the region.
“I think since the freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce in the West Philippine Sea are of great importance to many nations, all should consider what China is endeavoring to do in the Panatag Shoal in order to pursue its so-called full sovereign rights over the entire West Philippine Sea on the basis of their 9-dash claim using a historical record that is clearly baseless,” del Rosario said.
“All, not just the Philippines, will ultimately be negatively affected if we do not take a stand,” Del Rosario added.
Del Rosario arrived last Friday from the US where he led in campaigning for the candidacy of Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano for a seat in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ elections will be held on April 27.
“We limited our focus on these two initiatives, preferring to discuss the overall topic involving the West Philippine Sea during our ‘2 plus 2’ meeting scheduled a little over a week from now,” Del Rosario said, referring to his coming meeting with US officials on April 30.
“I think what’s happening is they (countries) respect the process that this issue is being discussed by both sides and therefore they are holding their horses to weigh in on this issue,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a press briefing, referring to ASEAN’s silence.
“We have not heard anything from ASEAN because maybe they respect that there is a discussion involving the Philippines and China and they would ask us if they want to weigh in on (this issue) at this time,” Hernandez said.
“It has to be resolved soon. We’re a small nation dealing with a big nation and we’re doing our best to assert our sovereignty and our sovereign rights in this area. We’re happy we have the support of our people,” he said.
“I understand the fishermen are a little bit worried about their safety, as they have been hearing that the Chinese would like them to leave the place, so I think they prefer not to go there this time,” Hernandez said, reacting to reports that Filipino fishermen were now avoiding the Panatag Shoal area.
The Philippines declared on Friday that it would proceed to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) “unilaterally” to resolve the territorial dispute if China would not join Manila in defending its own position before the United Nations-backed tribunal.
Hernandez said China violated the agreement with the Philippines not to undertake any action that would aggravate the situation in Panatag Shoal with its deployment of more vessels in the area.