• EU backs Manila on sea row

     European Union President Herman Van Rompuy (right) and President Benigno Aquino 3rd shake hands after giving statements following their meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels. AFP PHOTO

    European Union President Herman Van Rompuy (right) and President Benigno Aquino 3rd shake hands after giving statements following their meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels. AFP PHOTO

    Calls on China to respect international laws

    THE European Union (EU) has backed the Philippines’ position on territorial disputes over several islets and shoals in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as it called on China and other claimant countries to abide by internationally-recognized laws, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

    In a joint news conference with President Benigno Aquino 3rd in Brussels, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday said the EU supports all peaceful avenues to resolve territorial rows among countries.

    “Let me stress that the European Union encourages all parties to seek peaceful solutions through dialogue and cooperation in accordance with international law, in particular, the [Unclos],” Barroso added.

    The Ccommission 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.

    According to Barroso, a peaceful settlement is the best way to resolve the maritime row between the Philippines and China. Beijing has been expanding its reach in disputed waters based on its nine-dash line territorial principle.

    Manila has filed several complaints against Beijing for its 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 parts of its territory.

    But Aquino assured Barroso that the Philippine government’s initiatives in settling the dispute, including the filing of a memorial or complaint against China’s nine-dash line policy, are based on international law. In April this year, the Philippines contested China’s claims before The Hague-based International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea (Itlos), which is under the United Nations.

    The President said Manila will continue to work with China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) for the crafting of a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

    “I told President Barroso that the Philippines remains committed to advancing a peaceful, rules-based resolution to the disputes in the South China Sea, which is a sea known in our region by many names,” Aquino added.

    “Like the European Union, we believe that the only viable and effective solution is one that is based on international law, and in particular, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or Unclos. This is the basis for the arbitral proceedings we initiated last year. We also continue to work with Asean and with China toward the early conclusion of a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” the President said.

    Aquino first aired his sentiments against China before Spanish leaders during his visit to Madrid, Spain, the first leg of his European trip. The President voiced his concern about China’s “aggressive” stance to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

    Aquino also pushed for the Triple Action Plan (TAP) as an approach to the problem by the cessation of provocative activities. The TAP stresses the need for a settlement mechanism anchored on international law.

    Meanwhile, Barroso expressed the EU’s support for the peace efforts in Mindanao that were boosted by the President’s submission to Congress of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law last week, which, when passed, will pave the way for the creation of a new Bangsamoro entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

    “This is a welcome positive step forward in the overall effort in bringing lasting peace to people in Mindanao,” the EU official pointed out.

    “The European Union is also supporting peace and development in Mindanao, in complement to the government’s efforts, through various development projects worth 106 million euros,” Barroso said.

    Aquino expressed the “profound appreciation of the Filipino people” to Barroso, particularly in supporting the peace process and in helping build back better and safer communities in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.

    “I am confident that the Philippines’ relations with the European Union will continue to be productive, strong and vibrant. And as we work closer, may we be even more committed to achieving our shared vision for our citizens, to build a Philippines and a European Union, where, indeed, no one is left behind,” the President told Barroso.


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