MANILA, April 7, 2014 — The territorial dispute between the Philippines and China may be effectively settled through open communication between the involved parties and not through the intervention of other influential countries like the U.S., a high-ranking Church official said.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo on Saturday said the United States’ support to the Philippines territorial claim in the South China Sea only worsens the dispute between the two countries, noting that only a diplomatic settlement can resolve the issue.
“The dispute only worsens with America getting involved. If the U.S. did not meddle in this dispute, (the issue will not worsen),” Pabillo said in an interview during the monthly Manila Archdiocesan General Pastoral Assembly held at the Cardinal Sin Auditorium of the Paco Catholic School.
According to Pabillo, America’s intervention further threatens China and increases the aggressiveness of the Philippines to insist on its claims, considering it has an ally that supports its cause.
“If only America would not involve itself, there is still hope for the two countries to settle the issue without resorting to threats and violence. The reason why this dispute is not being amicably settled by the involved countries is because there is another influential party involved,” he added in Filipino.
Pabillo suggested that the issue may be settled through a “joint venture” wherein the Philippines and China may discuss and settle their claims in a peaceful manner.
“I hope that the United States would no longer be involved so that the Philippines would not depend on them. China, as a result, would no longer be threatened,” he said.
Asked if the Philippines has the power to back its claim on its own, Pabillo said everything lies in effective communication between the two countries.
“It all depends on the communication between the parties involved. China threatens the Philippines because it knows that the latter enjoys the support of America. The Philippines, on the other hand, feels confident for it knows that it has America’s support,” he added.
The bishop also called on both parties to study their claims and follow what the international law stipulates about territorial limits.
“Both parties have basis to their claims, but we have to know what these claims really say. Sometimes, they use history as basis even if it is something that dates back too long ago. We have to base arguments to what we presently have. It is a good thing that we have the law of the sea to enforce,” Pabillo said.
Recently, the Philippines filed an arbitration case to the United Nations, seeking to nullify China’s claim to over 90 percent of the 3.5 million square kilometer South China Sea; clarify maritime territorial limits in the area; and end Chinese attacks within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), coastal states such as the Philippines are entitled to a 322-km EEZ. The Philippines argued that part of the territory claimed by China in the South China Sea is within its EEZ.
“The Philippines must directly communicate with China. They have to negotiate…They also have to settle disputes with other ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) nations because this issue is not only between China and the Phillippines. Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, they also have their claims so it is better to talk about the issue as a group,” Pabillo noted. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)