To raise awareness and educate students on the West Philippine Sea issue between China and the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) held an Information Education Campaign (IEC) and forum last July 24 at Silliman Hall.
DFA Spokesperson Asec. Charles C. Jose said that the issue is a matter of national interest that should concern every Filipino citizen.
In partnership with Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the forum is a series of lectures conducted in different places throughout the year in the country.
Students, faculty, and staff from different colleges and universities in Dumaguete participated in the forum.
“As represented by their nine-dash demarcation line, China has been claiming their indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea,” Jose said.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provision, the Philippines has maritime entitlements measured 200 nautical miles from the baseline. This includes areas in the West Philippine Sea that are being controlled by China.
“Under our EEZ (exclusive economic zone), tayo lamang po ang may exclusive sovereign rights and jurisdiction to explore, exploit, develop, and manage the natural resources that we own,” said Jose.
Jose showed China’s activities that destroy marine environment in Mabini Reef, a reef in the West Philippine Sea, also known as South China Sea.
“The Philippine government tried bilateral talks with China to settle the issue. We have exhausted all reasonable efforts,” said Jose.
This led the Philippines to file an arbitration case against China to seek clarification and determine each feature and characteristic of the disputed areas, including its maritime entitlement.
The Philippines filed the case in the arbitral tribunal of UNCLOS last January 22, 2013. The government submitted its memorial last March 24, 2014. The court’s deadline for the submission of China’s counter memorial was on December 15, 2014.
Jose said that the oral arguments presented by the Philippines were done last July 7 to 13 this year. The court’s final decision [of territorial sovereignty] will be around January to April 2016.
Aside from the tension over the West Philippine Sea, Jose emphasized that “the country is against China’s claim, not to the Chinese.” He said that the issue is not affecting any transactions between China and Philippines.
Jose also encouraged the audience to talk about the topic to their families, parents, siblings, and friends to establish an informed citizenry among the Filipinos.
By Paulynne R. Dela Cruz