Saturday, February 9, 2013

Conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea

United States lawmakers on Wednesday expressed support on the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China over conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea.

"The US delegation supported the position of the President (Benigno Aquino III) in bringing the dispute to the UN arbitral tribunal, consistent with our policy of maintaining a peaceful resolution to the West Philippine Sea dispute," said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda during the press briefing.

The US congressional delegation headed by Congressman Ed Royce of California, together with Congressmen Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, Vernon Buchanan of Florida, Matt Salmon of Arizona, and Eliot Engel of the 16th District of New York, made a courtesy call Wednesday to the President.

Lacierda said the President explained to the visiting US lawmakers why the Philippine government had to bring the West Philippine Sea dispute before the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS).

The Philippine government earlier explained the filing of arbitrary case against China was necessary as China's 9-dash line claim encompasses practically the entire West Philippine Sea.

"We must challenge the unlawful claim of China under their 9-dash line in order to protect our national territory and maritime domain," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) stressed.

"The legal action is pursuant to the President's constitutional mandate to pursue the national interest and defend the Philippine territory and maritime domain. It also pursues the policy of a rules-based approach based on international law, especially UNCLOS, in resolving the disputes in the West Philippine Sea," it noted.

Having exhausted all possible initiatives, the DFA said, the government feels it is the time to act is now.

"If we do not act now, we will be in default," the DFA said.

With the filing of the arbitrary case against China, the Philippine government hopes that the arbitral tribunal will issue an award in accordance with international law that will direct China to respect the country's sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), continental shelf, contiguous zone, and territorial sea over the West Philippine Sea, and to desist from undertaking unlawful acts that violate the country's rights.

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