BAGUIO CITY – “What is ours is ours”. This is the stand of President Benigno Aquino III on the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute as reiterated by Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Charles Jose.
Jose was in Baguio City and Benguet on Feb. 17 to 18 for the Baguio leg of the nationwide advocacy campaign on the West Philippine Sea issue that includes a multi-sect oral forum at the University of the Cordilleras and two campus tours – one also in UC and one at the Benguet State University.
The advocacy campaign aims to increase public awareness and understanding on the issue.
Jose shared that one of the core issues that needs immediate resolution is China’s claim of so called “indisputable sovereignty” over nearly the entire South China Sea as represented in its nine-dash line which he pointed out is not supported by any international law.
Another issue is China’s assertive and sometimes aggressive behavior in the West Philippines Sea on its aim to claim that part of water, which has also other claimants like Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.
Explaining why the Philippines must continue to fight for our maritime rights over the West Philippine Sea, Jose that if we give up we will loss around 80 percent of our Exclusive Economic Zone which aside from a major livelihood source of many Filipinos especially the fishermen, has also mineral resources that could be vital for economic growth and improvement of the life of Filipinos.
Jose stressed that the country is pushing for peaceful settlement and the primacy of the rule of law – using diplomatic and legal way on the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Diplomatic means through the call for support of UN member countries and legally through a case filed at the Arbitrary Tribunal of the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas or UNCLOS, which resolution is expected to come out this April or May.
“Our story here is we have legitimate rights in the South China Sea or West Philippine as enshrined in international law but China is claiming what is ours, so we should also defend what is rightfully ours”, Jose stressed.
He clarified that as the country continues to fight for what is legally ours, the socio-economic relations between the two countries remain strong and China is among the major sources of foreign tourists in the Philippines.
Jose called on his audience to help spread the information on the government’s position on the West Philippine Seas territorial dispute./CCD with Liana Torres/PIA – SLU intern