Aquino: It’s my duty to defend Philippines sovereignty

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Monday, March 31, 2014

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Monday said it is his sworn duty to defend the national territory and the country's sovereignty as far as the West Philippine Sea issue is concerned.

The Chief Executive made this statement following China's warning that its relationship with the Philippines would be affected as the latter pushed with the filing of its memorial before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal last Sunday and the continued presence of Filipino troops in Ayungin Shoal off West Philippine Sea.

Citing Section 7, Article 2 of the Constitution, the President said, "The state shall pursue an independent foreign policy and in its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination."

Aquino said he subscribed to this oath when he assumed office.

"I have to defend national territory and our sovereignty," he said.

He said the Philippine government decided to go through arbitration primarily because it is a means to resolve the territorial dispute, which is consistent with the government's peaceful policy and in conformity with the international law.

The Philippines has also been pushing for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), he added.

In the case of the Ayungin Shoal, the President said it is clearly within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

"Unclos sinubukan na may rules-based, na every coastal state has certain entitlements and rights," he said.

"Nagkaroon ng ambiguity by counterclaims over the decades and what we are trying to resolve is siguraduhin: Who is entitled to what? What are rights of each one? What are the obligations of -- hindi ba -- every state?" Aquino said.

"So, we are not here to parang challenge China, to provoke them into any action, but I do believe that they should recognize, we have the right naman to defend our own interests."

The President hailed the military personnel stationed at marooned BRP Sierra Madre off Ayungin Shoal.

"I should pay special tribute to the men of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines). We had men who had to be provisioned in Ayungin Shoal. They accomplished the mission without, I believe, parang increasing the tension and did it in a way na didn't pose a threat to any other country. Again, consistent with the peaceful approach," he said.

Chinese Coast Guard vessel tried to stop a Philippine civilian ship that was to resupply goods to Filipino troops in Ayungin Shoal last Saturday. But the Philippine ship, which was much smaller than the Chinese vessel, was able to evade the naval blockade.

Aquino expressed belief that if China and the Philippines could have changed their position, he didn't think that Beijing would just forego its interests.

"Parang different conditions: they are the smaller country, they are the less military capable, they have interests. Will they willingly just forego their interests here? I don't think so," he said.

The President said that the Philippine position to bring the territorial row with China before an international arbitration court has the consensus of the leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

"I emphasize ha, consensus, nobody objected that this is the right course to do, okay. I think we invited also the judiciary but the judiciary begged off, saying that there might be questions and challenges later on," he said. (SDR/Sunnex)

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