Let UN resolve RP baseline issue — gov’t

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE government brushed aside fears for a flashpoint over the “stem of protest” from China over the ratification by the Philippine Congress of the Archipelagic Baselines as it stands by it.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said that the Philippine government is leaving the issue to the United Nations to resolve the disputes over the Kalayaan group of island and Scarborough Shoal as he assured that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will sign it into law.

Beijing claims the ratified bill violates its “indisputable sovereignty” over the two territories, which was defined as a “regime of islands under the Republic of the Philippines” by the Philippine Congress.

This means that, although not included within the country’s territory, the Philippines continues to lay claim to these areas.

“The reaction of China is not surprising. After all, they are a claimant also of long standing. That is why we need the baselines bill to meet the UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] deadline,” Remonde said.

“It will be then up to the UN [United Nations] to resolve the issue,” Remonde said in a text message.

Under the UNCLOS, member-countries of the UN have until May 2009 to define their baselines or territorial waters.

The Philippines, China, and Taiwan claim ownership of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

These countries, as well as Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also lay claim to all or part of the reportedly oil-rich Spratlys.

All claimants, except for Taiwan, are signatories to a Code of Conduct that prevents the buildup of military forces in the Spratlys.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has around 60 soldiers stationed on eight islands in the Spratlys, most of them on Pag-asa Island, where a satellite system was installed in 2008.

Foreign affairs officials is hopeful that the controversy would be peacefully be resolved as it expressed understanding of the sentiments of China being one of the claimant countries.

The DFA said it is optimistic that China will respect its international commitment and will be open to clarifications, dialogues and consultations with claimant countries like the Philippines.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Anthony Golez Jr. said that the baseline bill is for national interest as our legislators considered the serious concerns of China under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.

Golez said that the bill complied with the UNCLOS provisions in line with the UN deadline on May this year.