Manila, Oct 20 (Mabuhay) – A former Justice Secretary-turned-opposition lawmaker has asked the Aquino administration to study China’s proposed joint naval drills with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which, he said, could help ease the tension in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
1-BAP pary-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III, a member of the House minority bloc, urged the government to relentlessly pursue diplomatic means to resolve territorial issues with China.
“The solution to the dispute between our country and China on the West Philippine Sea should be through diplomacy. A joint exercise on disputed territory could pave the way to a diplomatic solution,” he said in an interview.
Like Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., he also called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of National Defense (DND) to study Beijing’s proposal.
“It is worth considering as long as we make clear that we are not in any way compromising any of our claims in the West Philippine Sea,” Belmonte said in a separate interview.
In an informal summit in Beijing, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan expressed willingness to hold joint drills with the ASEAN countries, covering accidental encounters and search and rescue and disaster relief.
China claims sovereignty over South China Sea’s 3.5 million square kilometers, part of which falls under Philippine territory. China has also overlapping claims with Vietnam,Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea.
The Aquino administration aggressively pursued numerous diplomatic protests and even filed a nearly 4,000-page memorial before the United Nations (UN) arbitral tribunal in The Hague last year, but Beijing ignored these initiatives and failed to participate in the arbitration case, saying that they want to resolve the issue bilaterally.(MNS)