Phl Seeks Win-Win Situation In Shoal Row With China

President Benigno Aquino III said that the country will pursue a win-win situation with China within the claims with both countries regarding Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

Aquino told the business forum of the Joint Alumni Clubs of US Universities last Wednesday that, “We have not stopped having communication with them in trying to look for a win-win situation.”

However, while the country intends to look for a win-win scenario for both parties, Aquino mentioned that he would still keep track of upholding and enforcing the laws.

“If it’s clear that we have a 200-mile exclusive economic zone designated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and both of us are parties to it, is it too much to ask that our rights are respected by our neighbors, in the same token that we respect their rights?” he asked.

With determination, Aquino also claimed that he is not going to give up any areas that belong to the country.

“I am not empowered to give up any of our territory,” he said.

Aquino added that the authority intends to handle the matter diplomatically.

“We do not want to present a threat to them in any shape, manner, or form in terms of military action,” he added.

On the other hand, Albert del Rosario the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, revealed that the Philippines has more investments in China than China has in the Philippines.

He stated that the Philippine investments in China amounts to nearly $3 billion as against to China’s investments in the Philippines which is approximately less than a billion and a half ($1.5).

Last Wednesday, Del Rosario told the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines that, “We benefit from our relations with China just as China benefits from its relationships with us.”

Del Rosario also mentioned that China, in which is considered the Philippines’ 3rd largest trading partner, signed a memorandum of agreement during President Aquino’s state visit last year that both countries would work towards accomplishing $60 billion in 2-way trade within a 5-year period and 2 million inward visitors within 5 years.

“It was also agreed upon that the bilateral agenda would be moved forward in the most positive way, while the areas of contention such as the West Philippine Sea would be abstracted and dealt with separately,” he added.

Having the fact that Chinese investments in the country is only half of Philippine investments in China, Del Rosario then said that Filipino businessmen will not be discouraged from investing in their country despite the recent activities and happenings taken by the Chinese travel agencies suspending tour packages to the Philippines as tensions over the borderline of the islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) increased.

Also, China possessed Philippine fruit exports suspected of carrying pests amid a tense argument between the two countries over Panatag Shoal.

“I don’t think that we should be discouraging our businessmen from investing in China. It’s a good thing if they see how we do it here but what we’re trying to do is at least equalize the amount of investments that go out and we’re hoping that more Chinese investors will take an interest in the Philippines,” Del Rosario said.

“We’d like to believe it’s not,” Del Rosario replied when he was asked if the suspension of tour packages to the Philippines, the reduction in flights, and the possession of Philippine bananas are forms of pressure by China among the maritime argument between Philippines.

“We’d like to believe it’s a technical issue,” he added.

Economic pressure

If China continues to exert economic pressure to the Philippines such as blocking bananas and canceling tour packages, then, the lawmakers said and warned that the economy of the Philippines would be in danger.

Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco and Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas said the suspension of tour packages and the controls on fruit importations is “China’s subtle warning versus Philippine on its vast economic arsenal.”

Also, they urged that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should step up efforts in paving the way for the creation of a joint Philippine-China study commission, which would focus on finding mutually acceptable solutions to end the dispute in the Spratlys.

“The decision of Chinese travel agencies to suspend travel to the Philippines could be China’s subtle warning that it does not even need its military to bring widespread economic destruction in the country,” Haresco said.

He warned the suspension of tour packages to the country by Chinese travel agencies “could be the beginning of a larger and more sustained campaign to remind the Philippines and even the US that its economic arsenal is as devastating as its three-million strong People’s Liberation Army.”

Also, he added that the effect of the travel suspension would already deny the economy millions of dollars in potential tourism revenues and warned that Beijing might even go further by obliging a ban on Filipino overseas workers, including those working in Hong Kong and Macau.

Haresco said that the only way to fix the problem in the Spratlys is through direct mutual dialogue with China without discounting the possibility of entering into a joint exploration arrangement in the areas claimed by the Philippines.

While the United States will always remain a valuable supporter to the Philippines, bragging Washington into the Spratlys argument “will do more harm than good” as this is being viewed as an indirect needling by Beijing.

Tactical support

On the other hand, Malacañang, restated that the presence of a US submarine in Subic had nothing to do with the Philippines’ disagreement with China over the disputed Panatag shoal.

Edwin Lacierda, Presidential spokesman, illiterates that the US government made a request last April 3, 2012, days before the April 10 standoff saying that they be allowed to dock their submarine in the area.

“And so it (US request) was addressed to the Department of National Defense and the DND gave its approval on April 24. So, I don’t need to answer or respond to the statements made by the Left,” Lacierda explicated.

Earlier, security officials revealed the visit of submarine USS North Carolina (SSN-777) in Subic was a routine port call scheduled last April 3, before the standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in Panatag shoal started. The US attack submarine rose last Sunday in Subic Bay.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said the visit of a US submarine in Subic violated the country’s sovereignty.

In a statement, the CPP said the US is using the entire Philippines as a vast military base where it could dock its ships, land its fighter jets, fly its drones, conduct repairs and replenish supplies.

Filipino protesters led by former military rebel Nicanor Faeldon said they are planning to sail to Panatag as a show of support.

“They want to protest against the aggression being committed by China against our country, Faeldon’s spokesman kit guerrero said.

He said at least two fishing vessels carrying faeldon’s group were expected to arrive at the shoal later on Friday.

“They are intending to stay there at least three days and fish, if they are not prevented from doing so, Guerrero said, adding that planting a Philippine flag on the rock was also an option.

Fishermen from Batanes, Faeldon’s home province, along with fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales would be joining Faeldon to fish in Panatag that China has included in its declared fishing holiday.

The Philippines has reminded China that the West Philippine Sea is not the sum total of their bilateral relations.

The Philippines remains a safe and a welcoming country even as tensions over the disputed islands escalated.

Stay on the line

China has demanded manila not take measures in the political and legal aspects, saying it will worsen and complicate the situation.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said last Monday in a press conference in Beijing that the Philippines should adhere to “diplomatic negotiations” to resolve the standoff.

“In particular, diplomatic negotiations should be adhered to in resolving the current situation, rather than continuing to incite public opinion and send contradictory messages,” Hong said.

Philippines Ignores China Demand To Quit Shoal

Declaring “that’s our territory” and giving a warning to Chinese vessels to back off, the Philippine officials last Wednesday disregarded China’s demand to remove Filipino vessels from Panatag Shoal.

BRP Edsa, a Philippine Coast Guard search and rescue vessel, along with an archaeological survey mission aboard the MY Sarangani and a fishing boat was remained in the area, facing off two Chinese maritime surveillance vessels and a fishing boat.

Last Monday an order was demanded by China that all Filipino vessels should be out or clear the area, which then calls Huangyan Island and which is known internationally as Scarborough Shoal, and also sent an aircraft to buzz a Philippine fishing boat in the second, such incident happened since Saturday.

According to Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, “We’re also telling their ships to do the same,” he told the reporters.  “That’s our territory and we’re also saying the same thing to their ships.”

Carandang said talks between the Philippines and China were continuing. “Tensions have not degenerated,” he said, and the fact “that not a shot has been fired is already a sign that the situation is not deteriorating.”

Arbitration call ignored

Philippines and China have decided to settle the argument diplomatically but have both asserted on their ownership of the shoal, extending an eight-day deadlock on the high seas.

Last Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, asked China to bring the debate to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for negotiation. The Chinese embassy, though, disregarded the proposal and asked the Philippines to extract its vessels from the shoal “and restore peace and stability there.”

The latest standoff between Manila and Beijing over disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) began on April 8 when a Philippine Navy plane spotted eight Chinese fishing boats in Panatag, a cluster of reefs and islands around a lagoon.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, the Philippine Navy flagship was transmitted to the area on April 10 and its officials boarded the fishing boats, but Chinese maritime surveillance vessel interposed. The fishing boats glided last Friday night.

The argument is just one of a countless claims over islands, reefs and shoals in the South China Sea that quarry china against the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Conflict has increased in the past 2 years over worries that China is becoming more aggressive in its claims to the sea that overlaps shipping lanes between East Asia and Europe also the Middle East.

Even though supplicant countries have vowed to fix the territorial gaps peacefully, the arguments have vented in violence in the past which includes the 1988 when China and Vietnam collided in the Spratly Islands in a defiance that killed 64 Vietnamese soldiers. Many fear the disagreements that became Asia’s next flash point for armed conflict.

Vietnam held a maritime ceremony last Monday near the area where the event happened to remember the dead soldiers, state-controlled media reported.

Numerous rounds of talks have failed to end the impasse at Panatag, which is 872 kilometer from Hainan province, China’s next-door territory to the shoal.

Ancient Chinese shipwreck

Zhang Hua, Chinese embassy spokesperson, acknowledged that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or Unclos, permits countries to claim an exclusive economic zone but was then reported that Philippines could not exercise sovereignty on areas within those waters that are owned by other countries.

One ancient Chinese shipwreck could be found at Panatag, but the Philippine research ship has no right to rescue it, Zhang said. “We urge the archaeological vessel to leave the area immediately,” Zhang said in a statement.

‘We will not leave’

In an interview with the reporters last Wednesday, Defense Secretary Voltaire De Gazmin called on Filipinos to come together and let the world know that ”we are being bullied” by China.

Also on Wednesday, Bayan Muna Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares filed a resolution condemning China and calling for an inquiry into the government’s failure to assert sovereignty over the shoal.

“We also do not want to go to war, but we must assert our sovereignty, through whatever means we can,” Casiño said.

On Tuesday, Gazmin said, “We will fight for what is ours. We are in the area and we will not leave while we continue the talks” between the DFA and Chinese authorities.