(TOKYO, Japan) President Benigno S. Aquino III shares the stage with the participants in the meeting with the Filipino community for a group photo souvenir at the Ascot Hall of the Okura Hotel on Tuesday (June 02) as part of his State Visit to Japan. (MNS photo)

(TOKYO, Japan) President Benigno S. Aquino III shares the stage with the participants in the meeting with the Filipino community for a group photo souvenir at the Ascot Hall of the Okura Hotel on Tuesday (June 02) as part of his State Visit to Japan. (MNS photo)

TOKYO (Mabuhay) – President Aquino lashed back at the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry and reminded China of the contents of an agreement that it entered into over the South China Sea.

Asked about recent comments from China in a forum with the Japan National Press Club, Aquino cited relevant paragraphs from the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea or DOC, including one where the concerned parties agreed “to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations… in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

Another paragraph enjoined the parties to “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability…” and to refrain “from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs… and other features.”

The President said China’s reclamation activities violated these provisions.

“So, perhaps, we should request the spokesperson to revisit the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to refresh his memory to that which they pledged to,” Aquino said.

“And the other aspect is something that we have often stated, perhaps in more private discussions, we were taught when we were younger that the ability to come to an agreement sometimes necessitates, or a lot of times necessitates your putting yourself in the other shoes. Look at it from the other perspective. If the situation were reversed, would they accept not meddling in, you know… If China’s and the Philippines’ position were reversed, would they accept the advice that they are now telling countries as small as ours?”

Aquino said the Philippines has delayed the repair of an airstrip in the Kalayaan Group of Islands since the parties entered into the DOC.

“I think we have delayed our repair of the landing strip that services our community within the Kalayaan Island groups. The delay of the repair makes all the repairs even that much more extensive down the line. This facility existed before 2002, and that is important because there was an agreement to preserve the status quo, starting from 2002,” he said.

He insisted China must respect “our rights” and justified why the Philippines is questioning China’s territorial claim before an arbitral tribunal.

“One only has to look at the map… I guess one of the questions we would ask the Chinese people were: ‘If you were the Philippines and suddenly you would have one coastline, or in effect, your whole west coast is gone, you will be retained with the east coast, would you say: ‘Yes, please take half of our waterways?” I don’t think any country would willingly do that. So we are just standing up for our rights. We respect everybody else’s rights. We ask that our rights also be respected,” Aquino said.

Aquino also denied that the Philippines is undertaking similar reclamation activities in the contested area.

“Now, when certain countries say everybody is reclaiming at this point in time, the Philippines vehemently denies that we are reclaiming anything at this point in time. Nor are we even repairing that which already existed before these agreements were entered into,” he said.

Even as Aquino welcomed American support, he insisted that the Philippines’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States is not directed at “any entity.”

“Our Constitution prohibits foreign bases in our country. But having said that, it does allow rotational presence. EDCA envisions an increase of rotational presence to foster, again, interoperability and transfer of knowledge and perhaps technology between America and the Philippines…

“So, I guess, EDCA is just a further refinement of a very strong and very long lasting relationship between the Philippines and America. And we see this as an improvement in making those agreed-upon terms in the various treaties and agreements that much more real. It does exist, (not) just in paper, but it is an actual ability again to render support to each other… We have to emphasize, EDCA is not directed at any entity. It is just a refinement of a longstanding defense treaty between America and the Philippines,” he said.

Aquino is hoping that maritime disputes, including those in the South and East China Seas, would be resolved following the example of the Philippines and Indonesia which concluded an agreement on the delimitation of maritime boundaries.

Aquino said this has paved the way for closer cooperation in anti-piracy and humanitarian assistance.

“Amongst the things that are now possible with Indonesia is that, in the issue of protecting the environment or even anti-piracy operations, the Indonesian Navy and the Philippine Navy can patrol this very extensive area more thoroughly, in the sense that now that we know precisely where the boundaries are, we can take alternate patrols that will cover these areas closer to 24/7 than what is now possible,” he said.

“So again, perhaps at some point in time, the issues in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea/East Sea will be resolved, and that will enable everybody to be even more cooperative in addressing humanitarian disaster assistance needs, anti-piracy efforts, and so on and so forth. So we are hoping that perhaps the model that Indonesia and the Philippines are now doing in this part of the world can serve as an example of what is possible.” (MNS)