OTHER countries can use as a model a sea agreement signed by the Philippines and Indonesia in resolving territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), according to US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.
The ambassador was referring to the pact between Jakarta and Manila that ended a 20-year-old dispute due to overlapping claims to exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
“Tensions need to be lowered and rules to be followed. One very positive example from the Philippines is what it did with Indonesia to resolve EEZ issues. It took 20 years to sign an agreement,” Goldberg said in a recent roundtable with The Manila Times’ staff.
“There is a template for how you can do it bilaterally and resolve something peacefully,” the US envoy stressed.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. agreed with Goldberg, saying the idea can lead to a tangible way to end conflicts.
“That mode is fully consistent with our position that the WPS (West Philippine Sea) issue has to be resolved through peaceful and diplomatic means,” he told The Times.
In May this year, after two decades of negotiations, President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono witnessed the signing of the agreement concerning the delimitation of the EEZ boundary in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea.
The deal was signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa based mainly on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), which sets that a country’s EEZ is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea. It shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
Aquino said the agreement with Indonesia is a testament that the country is committed to end territorial disputes without the use of violence.
The Philippines filed a memorial against China before the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea (Itlos) to question the mainland’s nine-dash line rule in determining its territories in the West Philippine Sea.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the sea pact is the first maritime boundary treaty of the Philippines. It will be ratified by Aquino and submitted to the Senate for concurrence.
The DFA explained that the agreement includes the annexed charts showing the EEZ boundary of the Philippines and Indonesia in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea in southern Philippines and in the Philippine Sea on the southern section of the Pacific Ocean.
“The EEZ boundary line defines the limits of the sea space in southern Philippines, thereby giving our fishermen and other stakeholders a clear extent of the area where they can exercise the sovereign rights over the waters as provided for by national laws and treaties including the 1982 Unclos,” it said in a previous statement.