Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario reiterated his call for China to withdraw three remaining ships in the contested Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, located off Zambales province in Luzon.
Speaking in front of Philippine Military Academy cadets on Friday, the DFA chief said the remaining Chinese ships in the disputed area in the West Philippine Sea should be pulled out to promote peace within the Southeast Asian Region.
“The territorial issue cannot be solved overnight. But if the Chinese ships were to be pulled out, this could create the impetus for a way forward,” a statement released on Saturday quoted Del Rosario as telling the cadets.
He said the Philippines “continues to peacefully and constructively engage all claimant neighbors, particularly China,” amid the challenge to protect its national territory.
“All parties should respect the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of all coastal states irrespective of their size or naval power, in conformity and in accordance with UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” Del Rosario said, quoting President Benigno Aquino III’s statement during the recent ASEAN summit in Cambodia.
“We have a clear mandate from our President. What is ours is ours and we should stand up to protect what is ours,” Del Rosario added.
Del Rosario also said: “President Aquino called on China to respect our EEZ and withdraw their vessels… this mandate is not a matter of choice on the part of our government but is dictated as an obligation by our Constitution.”
On Wednesday, Del Rosario revealed that the Philippines and other claimants (excluding China) in the disputed territories – Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei – will meet on December 12 “to discuss viable options to move the issue forward” and find a “peaceful resolution” to the territorial row.
The Philippines-China standoff began in April when Chinese vessels were spotted poaching in the Panatag Shoal.
But before Philippine authorities could make arrests, Chinese ships blocked their path.