Miriam hits PH complacency on sea dispute


MANILA - Presidential aspirant Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Thursday criticized the Aquino administration for being complacent on the issue of the West Philippine Sea. 

In a statement, Santiago said the government's complacency is falsely rooted in the belief that an arbitral tribunal hearing the Philippines' case against China will rule in its favor. 

"It is not true at all that the arbitral tribunal may decide on the Philippine side in the face of China's excepting itself from the application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Articles 297 and 298," she said. 

"The dispute with China requires a second level of diplomacy as the other party takes keen interest in bilateral negotiation bordering on conciliation, relying on the principles set forth in the UNCLOS, Part XV, Section 1," she added. 

Santiago noted the two UNCLOS articles outline the cases that may be submitted for jurisdiction, as well as limits to arbitration. Article 298 particularly states that "a State may… declare in writing that it does not accept any one or more of the procedures…"

The UNCLOS, Article 280, gives states the right to "…agree at any time to settle a dispute between them concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention by any peaceful means of their own choice."

Santiago said the Philippines is relying too heavily on U.S. support to deter Chinese expansionism. If elected president, she said she will "negotiate with China together with other Asian countries."

Tensions in the South China Sea have risen recently, with the United States and others protesting Beijing's land reclamations, along with the recent deployment of surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets in the Paracel Islands.

Along with China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.

China said on Wednesday that it sent vessels to disputed South China Sea waters to tow a grounded Filipino ship, while it urged the U.S. not to sensationalize the dispute in the region. 

READ: PH fishermen say China blocking access to Jackson Atoll - media

Philippine officials said China had stationed several ships near a disputed atoll in the South China Sea, preventing Filipino fishermen from accessing traditional fishing grounds and raising tensions in the volatile region.

China deployed up to seven ships to Quirino Atoll, also known as Jackson Atoll, said Eugenio Bito-onon Jr, the mayor of nearby Pagasa Island in the Spratly archipelago.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the grounded ship had been "properly handled" after towing away. With Reuters