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Phl to claimant countries: Reduce tension in South China Sea
CLAIMANT countries in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) must have the "sense" to settle the dispute peacefully and must work together to reduce tension in the contested territory, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday said.
Aquino said he is worried about intelligence reports saying that the rocks and features of the area have been reclaimed and turned into islets.
This would change the legal boundaries in the area, especially as the country pushes its claim through legal means, he said.
The President stressed he has received reports about two hydrographic ships deployed to Recto Bank to do mapping operations.
Recto Bank is 80 miles from Palawan province within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the country, he noted, adding that he wonders what the two ships were mapping inside Philippine territory.
The Philippines is concentrating on two initiatives to resolve the issue --- through arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), and by pushing for a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
The country has filed an arbitration case to compel China to clarify its claims in the South China Sea. China however has refused to participate in the arbitration.
The Philippines wants to craft a Code of Conduct in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that, once approved, will ask China to also adopt the binding code.
The ASEAN tried to craft a Code of Conduct in 2002 but only produced the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. The declaration is non-binding.
Aside from China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan are laying claim to the South China Sea.