Palace: We won't lose Panatag Shoal

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 03 2012 02:00 PM | Updated as of May 04 2012 02:40 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is confident that the Philippines will not lose its sovereign rights over Scarborough Shoal, known in the Philippines as Panatag.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the key in affirming the Philippine claim is by bringing the dispute to an international body for resolution.

Lacierda said the actions of the Chinese in the area are being documented in the event that a case is filed.

“Paano po mawawala sa atin? Klarong klaro kaya nga natin inaakyat sa international tribunal because we believe that the way out from this situation is to have an arbitration mechanism as provided by international law, in this case the UNCLOS [UN Convention on the Law of the Sea],” Lacierda said.

Lacierda was disputing a contention made by columnist Rigoberto Tiglao that the Philippines could lose Scarborough Shoal if President Aquino continues to commit “colossal blunders.”

“We don’t believe that we are going to lose Panatag Shoal in the same way that they allowed—during their time—the Chinese to put up garrisons in Mischief Reef so hindi po mangyayari ‘yun. We believe that, as we have said, we have sovereign rights over Panatag shoal. [It is] within the exclusive economic zone of our country,” he added.

The Palace maintains that Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine territory, amid a conflicting claim also made by Taiwan.

“Regardless of who the claimants are, our position has always been the same that the Panatag shoal is 194 nautical miles and under UNCLOS, it is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and therefore we maintain sovereign rights over the Panatag Shoal,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda added that the President has been “very responsible and very prudent” in ensuring that tensions are deescalated, pointing out that Filipino vessels that have remained in the area are civilian in nature.

“The President is not remiss. He is very responsible and very prudent. In fact the policy here, as the President has categorically stated, we want to deescalate tensions in Panatag Shoal,” Lacierda said.

“Nothing is being done to escalate tensions,” he added.

Lacierda said the country enjoys good relations with China, citing other areas in the bilateral relations such as trade and people-to-people exchanges. He said it only happens that the territorial dispute is being emphasized over other “levels” in the bilateral relations.

“Hindi po totoo ‘yung mga sinasabi ni Ginoong Tiglao. We respect his opinion but we agree to disagree with him,” Lacierda said.

The President has not designated a new ambassador to China, however.