Philippines urges solution to China islands dispute
Recent attempts to resolve a diplomatic dispute between China and the Philippines have failed but all is not lost, one of Philippines’ most senior officials has said
Diplomatic discussions with the Chinese government over the disputed Scarborough Shoal islands have faltered but the situation remains manageable, according to one of the Philippines most senior government officials.
Secretary Ramon Carandang, presidential communications development and strategic planning office, said the government remained concerned and sensitive to any sudden increase in tensions.
Its our territory and militarily they are much more imposing than we are so you are not going to be happy about a situation like that, he told Emerging Markets.
Nevertheless Carandang, who is President Benigno Aquinos principal communication adviser, said the overall situation was under control.
As much as possible we want to be good neighbours with China and at some point we are going to resolve this diplomatically but discussions are off and on, he said.
What is important is that the two sides talk and we are looking for some kind of resolution. Certainly there is disagreement, China says do not internationalize it, we have taken it to our regional groupings and we want to take it to ITLOS (International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea).
Despite the presence of naval vessels from both sides there has been no escalation in military activities. Nobody has fired shots and I am hoping that cooler heads will prevail. It is in nobodys interest to see this situation flare up anymore than it is, Carandang added.
The Philippine government is holding a close dialogue with other ASEAN countries including Vietnam. We seem to be facing the same kind of issues with China and at ASEAN forums you notice that the position the Philippines takes is very similar to Vietnam and our interests are converging in this particular case and that has brought us together.
The Philippines has also raised the issue of the dispute with the United States and recently held scheduled joint military exercises with US forces. Publically, the US has taken a neutral stance in the matter but US secretary of state Hillary Clinton reaffirmed a mutual defence treaty as well as support for freedom of navigation and regional security.
In the atmosphere of simmering tensions politics seem to be prevailing as the trade dimension looms large. The Philippines has made strong efforts to boost trade with China and that may ultimately quell the spat.
What we are trying to tell them that although we have these problems with territory we view this as a separate thing from trade and this does not affect any other aspect of our relationship, Carandang added.
The Philippines and China have been locked in the tense standoff at Scarborough Shoal, an area China calls Huangyan Island for nearly a month. The Shoal is within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.China also disputes Vietnams claim of ownership to the Spratly Islands, an archipelago located in the South China Sea. Several other ASEAN members also lay claim to sovereignty of the islands which are said to hold large reserves of oil and natural gas.