PH, China should share ‘fruits of sea,’ says envoy
AMBASSADOR Rosario Manalo, the lead diplomat who helped frame the charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2007, has urged the government to agree on bilateral negotiations with China, not in addressing the territorial issue but in “sharing the fruits of the sea” in line with the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) signed by the Asean and China.
Manalo expressed dismay over China’s aggressive military buildup and activities in disputed waters of the South China Sea in the last five years when both the Philippines and China could agree on sharing resources on the disputed islands.
“I’m not favoring China’s position [to push for bilateral negotiations],” said Manalo, who chaired the High-Level Task Force in drafting the Asean Charter in 2007 and helped push for the Philippine initiative to establish the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.
Manalo was also Philippine Special Representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.
She protested China’s bullying of Filipino fishermen at Bajo de Masinloc, which is an extension of Zambales under the sea, although she believes the move is mere retaliation for the Philippines’ military alliance with the United States in addressing the South China Sea dispute.
“We need to sit down and discuss with China not the issue of ownership of the territorial waters. Since our jurisdiction overlaps, we can discuss how to work together and share the fruits of the sea,” said Manalo in an interview with reporters over the weekend.
Manalo, now the dean of the Helena Z. Benitez School of International Relations and Diplomacy at Philippine Women’s University in Manila, said bilateral negotiations on territorial disputes was provided for both in the United Nations Charter of Settlements of Disputes and the DOC in the South China Sea signed by the Asean and China in 2002.
She said both documents allow for parties “to sit down and negotiate on how to live together, with what we find in these waters that will mutually satisfy us.”
“The Declaration on South China Sea (referring to the DOC) may not be legally binding for member-states but it calls for a political solution, [it encourages parties to] sit down and see how we can resolve the issue,” said Manalo.
She said the next president should attend to the worsening tensions in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, but added that they should “not raise anymore the issue of who owns what on territorial matters. It’s a non-negotiable topic.”
Manalo, one of the 12 elected experts to the United Nations committee monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in New York from 1992 to 2002, was consulted before the government filed the case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
She said the Philippines invoked the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a more recent international law.
“It [the Philippines’ claim] is rules based but that doesn’t make China’s claim less rules based. With this situation, there’s a stalemate. How will you resolve the problem?” Manalo said. She suggested bilateral negotiations with China.
The Philippines should not allow “the countries of the world to meddle in an issue that is simply an overlap of jurisdiction between two countries,” Manalo said.