The issue is so near yet seems so far in terms of the level of awareness of Palaweños on the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea wherein China’s presence is apparent.
The forum held today, January 29, at the Provincial Capitol was attended by different sectors not only the military but the businessmen, non-government organizations, academe and the media.
The forum convenors believe that the issue is not only confined to military but should be known by every Filipino particularly the issue on the Exclusive Economic Zone, sea territory and continental shelf that are embodied in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The issues that were discussed include the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China, claims of other countries in the West Philippine Sea and government strategies on the aggressive acts of China in the area.
Around 5 million Filipinos depend their livelihood from the resources within the WPS and the rich oil and gas and other minerals abundantly present in the area particularly in Recto Bank is part of Palawan.
The Philippines has filed an arbitration case against China and this move is being supported by other countries like United States, India, European Union, Australia and Japan.
“Sa ngayon tahimik lamang ang Pamahalaang Panlalawigan , hindi tayo pinapayagan pa ng national government na magsagawa ng anumang pagkilos sa lupaing nasasakupan ng Palawan , partikular sa Pag-asa Island. Pero kung saka sakali naman na magbigay na ng abiso, nakahanda ang mga construction equipment,” said Palawan Governor Jose Chavez-Alvarez.
Alvarez said that if given the choice, he plans to put up 30,000 tons of platform that will serve as runway and seaport to accommodate the navy assets but, it has to wait for the approval of the national government.
University of the Philippines College of Law professor Dr. Jay Batongbacal said that the territorial claim of the Philippines in the WPS can be fought in a diplomatic way.
“Hindi natin kinakailangan na palakasin ang ating claims sa WPS sa pamamagitan ng pag gaya sa China na magtayo din at maglagay ng mga imprastraktura sa lugar. Malakas ang katibayan natin kung ang pagbabatayan ng ating claim ay ang mga dokumento at batas na sumasang- ayun sa atin,” Batongbacal said
Roilo Golez, chairman and lead convenor of Movement and Alliance to Resist China’s Aggression (MARCHA) has assured that diplomatic relationship of China and the Philippines will not be affected by the issue particularly on the aspect of economic growth.
“Relationship must not multi- dimensional. Ang usapin ay hindi lamang dapat sa teritoryo. Hindi mangangahulugan na may hindi pagkakaunawaan sa usapin na ito ay magsasara na tayo ng pinto para sa China. Ang Pilipinas ay mananatiling bukas para sa mga investors. South China Sea will not affect bilateral relationship with China,” Golez said.
Pending the decision on the arbitration case, the Philippines will not make any move as it may create tension among countries with claim in the WPS.
The forum was also attended by Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, Roilo S. Golez, DFA Undersecretary Evan P. Garcia and Dr. Jay L. Batongbacal of UP.