Escalating tension in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) brought about by the “emerging pattern of aggression” by some claimant countries threatens not only regional security but even the global community, according to President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Speaking at a forum organized by the French Institute for International Relations in Paris on Thursday, Aquino stopped short of naming China, but the allusion was unmistakable.
“The Philippines has consistently expressed its concern on rising tensions in our part of the world, due to maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. As has been reported by international news agencies the world over, there is an emerging pattern of aggression bent on establishing new realities at sea and in the air,” the President said.
According to him, such “aggression” endangers not only those who lay claim over some territories in the area but other countries outside the Asian region as well.
“These violations of international law pose a danger not only to claimant countries, but also to the entire international community, since freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce are threatened,” Aquino said.
The President, who is on the third leg of his European trip, praised the support of the European Union to the Philippine position for a peaceful resolution of sea disputes. He maintained that the international community stands to gain from regained peace in the disputed waters.
“The international community as a whole stands to gain when the rule of law is upheld, for only through such legal mechanisms can a truly just and stable world order be ensured,” Aquino said.
“I believe that I share this idea with the European Union authorities and heads of government I have had the honor of meeting, who have manifested their support for the peaceful resolution of disputes based on the rule of law,” he added.
Earlier this week, the EU called on China and other countries with claims in the West Philippine Sea to abide by internationally recognized laws, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
At a joint news conference last Tuesday with Aquino in Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU supports all peaceful avenues to resolve territorial rows.
The commission is the EU’s executive body and represents the interests of Europe as a whole. It has its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, with offices in Luxembourg.
The EU, on the other hand, is a politico-economic union of 28 member-states that are primarily located in Europe.
Barroso said a peaceful settlement is the best way to resolve the maritime row between the Philippines and China. Beijing has been aggressively backing its claim to the islets in the disputed waters, based on its nine-dash line territorial principle.
Manila has filed several complaints against Beijing’s reclamation activities in Burgos (Gaven) Reef, Kennan (Chigua) Reef and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef on the Kalayaan islands in the Spratlys. China has brushed aside the protests, insisting that the reefs are part of its territory.
In his Paris speech, Aquino highlighted Manila’s twin approaches to resolving conflict–by promoting the crafting of a binding Code of Conduct among claimant countries; and arbitration, pertaining to the “memorial” filed by the Philippine government against China’s nine-dash line policy.
He invited other claimant countries “to join us, to accelerate the resolution of this very long-standing dispute, which has lately caused much tension in our region.”
“Asia, Europe and the rest of the world need to work together to ensure a stable environment and a brighter future,” Aquino said. “I believe that a reinvigorated Philippines-France relationship can contribute greatly to achieving this endeavor.”