PH won’t give up Scarborough to China

PNS — MALACAÑANG yesterday slammed claims that the Philippines would soon lose its sovereign rights over Scarborough Shoal, citing efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard to document violations in the region to assert Philippine sovereignty.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told Palace reporters in his regular briefing that the key in affirming the Philippine claim is bringing the dispute to an international body for resolution.

Lacierda said the actions of the Chinese in the area are being documented which will provide evidence if 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.

He 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,” Lacierda said.

The spokesman stressed that 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.

The Palace official said that President Aquino has been “very responsible and very prudent” in ensuring that tensions are deescalated, pointing out that Filipino vessels remaining in the area are civilian in nature.

“Nothing is being done to escalate tensions,” Lacierda said.

“The Coast Guard is in charge of enforcing our rights there, our sovereign rights there in the Panatag shoal,” he added.

Lacierda further said that the Philippines enjoys good relations with China, citing areas in the bilateral relations such as trade and people-to-people exchanges.

He lamented that the territorial dispute is being emphasized over other “levels” in the bilateral relations with the President yet to designate a new ambassador to China.