• Miriam vows to end South China sea row

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    SEN. Miriam Defensor-Santiago will take a more proactive approach in resolving a territorial dispute in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) if she is elected President.

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    Santiago issued the statement on Thursday amid renewed Chinese aggression involving reported stationing of up to five ships on contested Quirino Island, barring access to Filipino fishermen.

    The move, she said, highlights failure of negotiations despite ongoing international arbitration.

    “The government seems to have grown complacent on the issue of the West Philippine Sea dispute, confident that the international tribunal now hearing the memorial it has filed against China will rule in its favor,” Santiago noted.

    “It is not true at all that the arbitral tribunal may decide on the Philippine side in the face of China’s excepting itself from the application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos], Articles 297 and 298,” the senator added.

    The two Unclos articles outline the cases that may be submitted for jurisdiction, as well as limits to arbitration.

    Article 298 particularly states that “a State may… declare in writing that it does not accept any one or more of the procedures…”

    Santiago hit the Aquino administration for relying heavily on U. support to deter Chinese expansionism, saying both military giants have interests in controlling the West Philippine Sea.

    The senator, also head of the Senate foreign relations committee and the legislative oversight committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), rallied her colleagues in January to assert that any treaty, including the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States, is void without Senate concurrence.

    The Supreme Court has since ruled on the validity of the EDCA, which it considered an executive agreement implementing the VFA.

    The Senate joined Santiago in 2009 in calling for renegotiation of the VFA, or its abrogation if the US refuses to negotiate.

    The senator said her administration will not depend on US support to resolve a dispute with a neighboring country.

    “If elected, I will negotiate with China together with other Asian countries,” she added.

    NEIL A. ALCOBER

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