Sea dispute mars Baku confab

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN—The maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) may have spread to this faraway Eurasian country, where 60 political parties, including those from China and the Philippines, are attending the 7th general assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (Icapp).

A Vietnamese official and two Filipino lawmakers here had objected to a draft of the Baku Declaration, which made no mention of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) as a legal avenue for resolving the territorial disputes between China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

The draft declaration reads: “We support peace and diplomacy and practical approaches such as joint exploration and development to resolve territorial disputes in parts of Asia, based on international law and the UN Charter, without resorting to the threat or the use of force. Political differences on such territorial disputes must not become impediments to normal economic and cultural interaction, based on mutual benefit.”

On Friday night, the Baku Declaration was finally approved but without the controversial proposal contained in the draft declaration.

Vietnam and the Philippines succeeded in deleting the proposal for a joint exploration and development of the West Philippine Sea with China. The amendment was unanimously approved by the assembly.

The approved Baku Declaration reads: We also support resolving territorial disputes in parts of Asia, based on the accepted principles of international law and the UN Charter, rather than resorting to the threat or the use of force. Political differences on such territorial disputes must not become impediments to normal economic and cultural interaction, based on mutual benefit.”

On Thursday, a Vietnamese political party official approached Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento to discuss the proposed text of the declaration of the assembly. The declaration was set to be adopted Friday night.

Icapp is an organization of 318 political parties in 52 Asian nations.

Some 230 Icapp members are meeting here for two days in the capital of Azerbaijan, an oil-rich former Soviet colony at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

Without naming the Vietnamese official, Rodriguez said: “Vietnam came to see me—that’s also my idea—because we can’t agree to joint development in the 200-mile economic zone, so we are sovereign there,” said Rodriguez.

He objected to the proposed declaration. “We can’t agree to joint development (with China in) the 200-mile economic zone (of the Philippines and Vietnam, respectively),” he said.

Rodriguez said that Vietnam and the Philippines were “sovereign there,” referring to the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of every archipelagic country under Unclos.

The Unclos sets the EEZ to up to 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) from the coast in which states have the right to explore and exploit natural resources but allow freedom of navigation and overflight to others nations.

“So I asked it to be erased,” said Rodriguez.

Sarmiento shared Rodriguez’s apprehension. “I agree. We would want to work with China and with any other country for that matter to bring about economic growth but not at the expense of saying we’re giving up this area,” he said.

Former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., founder of Icapp, had favored the idea of a “joint exploration and development of oil and gas reserves” in the West Philippine Sea.

“This is the practical, pragmatic, realistic and equitable solution for the sharing of the fruits of production and designation of fishing corridors,” he said.

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  • opinyonlangpo

    China proudly feels it is the undisputed boss in Asia, no single country can do anything about it specially in enforcing their sovereign claims. Seems bilateral talks is the easiest way to go to settle the issues peacefully and beneficial to both parties.

    • vendetta07

       bilateral talks are fine as long as they take international laws into consideration.  I’d really like to see it settled also so we could all move on.

      • opinyonlangpo

        They were reasonable before Philippines used its new bath tub navy ship to apprehend Chinese fishermen off Panatag shoal. Of course that hurt the pride of the Chinese because it was a form of bullying to them. If I remember it right, all they wanted before is the Philippines to police the Filipino fishermen and China would police the Chinese fishing boats. Fair enough but its the Philippines that changed the status quo. There was even a joint oil exploration between the two countries, very healthy relationship then.

      • vendetta07

        let’s see who is at fault here, the chinese fishermen were in a place where they didnt belong. poaching in our waters takes away fish that could have been caught and eaten by filipinos.

        the chinese do not respect our territorial rights because we do not have enough ships to patrol our own waters. it is actually china who is gradually changing the status quo with backroom negotiations, military build up (including paramilitary ships as large as the gregorio pilar), and aggressive actions in the west philippine sea, so one can see the arrests of the fishermen as an assertive reply. not too long before the arrests, chinese ships fired warning shots close to philippine fishing boats near the spratlys. the status quo has been slipping away for several years as part of the chinese strategy of ‘hiding their strengths until the time is right’.

      • opinyonlangpo

        It is reasoning like this that drastically changed the situation. It is okey if the Philippine government know what is their capabilities. Big talks and big action should be backed up by a capable military force. As they say it is an ant talking and acting mighty against an elephant. The reality on the ground is that the Philippines is at the mercy of China. A solution should now be the focus instead of doing a blame game, any suggestion?

      • vendetta07

        there hasn’t been a solution for the past fifty years so any solution that promises to solve it now would be a little optimistic. i agree that there should be some substance to big talk which is why they are working hard to acquire weapons.

        of course that doesnt mean we are itching for a battle. all the countries said they want a peaceful solution, so the challenge is in exerting non-violent methods in order to achieve their aims without firing a shot. we have all seen china’s work at the last two ASEAN meetings and with the undeclared banana war.

        The american response is to pull ASEAN countries into their orbit and away from china as part of their ‘pivot’ to asia that would take years to fully realize. Myanmar is an important country to america’s pivot because they provide a route to the indian ocean for the chinese if trade through the west philippine sea is choked off.

        instead of relying too much on the americans, I’m glad the DFA is working overtime to find a solution by asking for support from other countries, or at least by mollifying the chinese until a solution is found. there are some minor victories when other countries like Russia and Singapore agree that it should be solved with a ‘rules-based’ approach.

  • blue4cor

    Good job Rep Rodriguez and Sensn Sarmiento. good job Vietnam.

  • Patas

    Nice move.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rasputin.casanova Rasputin Casanova

     Former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., founder of Icapp, had favored
    the idea of a “joint exploration and development of oil and gas
    reserves” in the West Philippine Sea.

    WHAT IS THIS???????

  • im_earth

    dapat  ang EEZ 200 nautical mile ay irespeto ng CHINA.
    at di nila dapat ankinin.

    pero willing naman mag joint exploration ang Pinas within that area with China or other countries.
    kaso nga gusto solohin ng China.

  • virgilio contado

    Magkano nanaman kaya ang natanggap ni de venecia jr. para sang ayunan  nya itong joint exploration? Baka malugi pa ang china nito de venecia jr. sa ginawa mong pag pabor sa mga insect., di kana nakuntento sa bilyon mo.

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