Press Release
March 3, 2016


Amid renewed Chinese aggression, presidential candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago on Thursday said that the Philippines under her administration will take a more proactive approach in resolving the West Philippine Sea dispute.

China has reportedly stationed up to five ships in the contested Quirino Island, barring access to Filipino fisherman, a move which Santiago said highlights failure of negotiations despite ongoing international arbitration.

"The government seems to have grown complacent on the issue of the West Philippine Sea dispute, confident that the international tribunal now hearing the memorial it has filed against China will rule in its favor," Santiago said.

"It is not true at all that the arbitral tribunal may decide on the Philippine side in the face of China's excepting itself from the application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Articles 297 and 298," she added.

The two UNCLOS articles outline the cases that may be submitted for jurisdiction, as well as limits to arbitration. Article 298 particularly states that "a State may... declare in writing that it does not accept any one or more of the procedures..."

"The dispute with China requires a second level of diplomacy as the other party takes keen interest in bilateral negotiation bordering on conciliation, relying on the principles set forth in the UNCLOS, Part XV, Section 1," Santiago said.

The UNCLOS, Article 280, gives states the right to "...agree at any time to settle a dispute between them concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention by any peaceful means of their own choice."

Santiago also hit the current administration for relying heavily on U.S. support to deter Chinese expansionism, noting that both military giants have interests in controlling the West Philippine Sea.

The senator, who is also chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and the legislative oversight committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement, rallied her colleagues in January to assert that any treaty, including the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the U.S., is void without Senate concurrence.

The Supreme Court has since ruled on the validity of the EDCA, which it considered an executive agreement implementing the VFA. The Senate has joined Santiago in 2009 to call for a renegotiation of the VFA, or its abrogation if the U.S. refuses to negotiate.

Santiago said her administration will not depend on U.S. support to resolve a dispute with a neighboring country. "If elected, I will negotiate with China together with other Asian countries," she added.

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