Stick to diplomatic means in solving sea conflict, solons urgeBy Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines—Lawmakers on Tuesday urged the government anew to stick to diplomatic means in resolving the country’s territorial dispute with China.
House deputy speaker Maria Isabelle Climaco and Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said that it was best for the country to seek the assistance of international courts to resolve its conflicting claims with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Colmenares said that as the disputed area belonged to the Philippines, it can turn to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS to assert its sovereignty over the contested areas like the Scarborough Shoal, which is well within the Philippines exclusive economic zone.
“The territory is ours, and we must assert our rights to the false claims of China. The solution is bringing the case to the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea coupled with very proactive diplomacy to convince the international community of our rightful claim,” he said.
“Our basis is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations could be a strong lobby group, it is a big market,” said Climaco, saying that while military budget could be increased, Manila has both internal and external security concerns.
Climaco, who was recently commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Philippine Army, said that the Department of National Defense should rationalize its allocation of funds for modernization so that it would not only benefit the Philippine Navy.
“In my district, the Army has to maintain security and needs allocation for POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) for patrol,” she said.
To Colmenares, increasing the budget of the military was no assurance the dispute would be solved.
“China is so far ahead of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) which cannot even
destroy the Abu Sayyaf or catch (fugitive ex-army general Jovito) Palparan. Militarist solution is the martial law vintage philosophy which won’t work,” he said.