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DFA priority: Peace in disputed sea

Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines, at the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Sunday its priority in the remaining two years of the Aquino administration would be “to ensure the peace in the West Philippine Sea” amid rising territorial conflicts with regional giant China.

This includes attempts to get all concerned parties, including China, to agree to a moratorium on activities such as base building, reclamation and gas exploration that could further raise tension in the South China Sea.

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In a report it issued to coincide with President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) before Congress on Monday (July 28), the DFA listed its achievements for 2013 as well as its priorities for the remaining two years in the term of President Aquino.

“For the remainder of President Aquino’s term, the DFA will continue to be faithful to its mandate to preserve and enhance national security, work towards inclusive growth and development, and safeguard the welfare and interests of our people abroad, while upholding the values of good governance,” the DFA also said in a nine-page pre-Sona report.

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On its national security mandate, it mentioned disputes in the South China Sea “continue to pose serious challenges to national sovereignty and integrity.”

Specifically, the DFA will focus on its arbitration case against China.

Manila filed last year an arbitration case before the United Nations arbitration tribunal over China’s nine-dash line claim that in turn would give Beijing ownership of the entire South China Sea.

Last March 30, the DFA submitted a memorial to the arbitral tribunal, which gave China until Dec. 15 to present its counter memorial. China has refused to take part in the arbitration proceedings.

“We hope that China’s non-participation will hasten the arbitration proceedings,” the DFA said.

In the immediate term, the DFA said it was “also determined to get all concerned parties to agree on a moratorium on provocative and destabilizing actions in the “West Philippine Sea/South China Sea.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario earlier called for a moratorium on these activities after China was found to be undertaking reclamation activities in some of the disputed areas, including that of the Philippines and Vietnam.

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TAGS: Albert Del Rosario, arbitration, base building, Benigno Aquino III, China, Department of Foreign Affairs, Diplomacy, Foreign affairs, gas exploration, geopolitics, Global Nation, International relations, moratorium, Philippine president, Philippines, reclamation, South China Sea, Spratly Islands, State of the Nation Address, territorial disputes, Territories, West Philippine Sea
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