NEW YORK – The Philippines on Sept. 29 criticized a State Party before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for its expansionist territorial claims that violate the legitimate rights of other nations. It also urged the UNGA to take immediate steps to protect UN peacekeeping forces after Filipino troops were engaged with Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said the Philippines has invited a State Party to settle Philippines’ maritime dispute with them through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including its provisions on dispute settlement, particularly arbitration.
“However, it has refused to join us and has continued to unilaterally embark on an expansionist claim that violates the legitimate rights of the Philippines and other littoral neighbours under UNCLOS such as their Exclusive Economic Zones and Continental Shelves,” Del Rosario told the UN General Assembly without mentioning China by name.
“Instead of peacefully resolving the maritime disputes within the framework of UNCLOS, said State embarked on a series of dangerous, reckless and forceful activities in an attempt to impose unilateral change in the maritime status quo of the South China Sea,” he added.
In July 2012 China and the Philippines have been locked in a standoff over an area of the South China near the Philippines’coast called Scarborough Shoal. China formally created Sansha city, an administrative body with its headquarters in the Paracels which it says oversees Chinese territory in the South China Sea – including the Paracels and the Spratlys. Both Vietnam and the Philippines protested against this move.
In January 2013, the Philippines filed a motion for arbitration in UNCLOS as it sought a peaceful solution to its territorial dispute with China. The Philippines asked UNCLOS to nullify China’s so-called nine-dash-line claim, which encompasses almost all of the South China Sea, including parts of Manila’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
China has also engaged in maritime disputes with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam in different parts of the South China Sea, and with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.
With regard to UN peacekeeping operations where Filipino peacekeepers in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) monitoring the disengagement accord between Syria and Israel were surrounded last month by armed elements in the Syrian civil war until they moved to safety, Del Rosario called for top-level action to ensure the security of such missions.
“We are deeply concerned with the continuing and emerging dangers faced by all UN peacekeepers and urge the United Nations and all fellow Member States to ensure that these dangers are addressed comprehensively.” He said.
“We believe that outstanding operational and tactical issues relating to United Nations peacekeeping must be resolved at the highest levels as soon as possible. The Philippines reiterates its solid commitment to uphold multilateral peacekeeping, collective security and the rule of law.”
On development, he said that the greatest challenge to the Philippines in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) was the series of disasters that had befallen the country. Super typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon to have hit landfall in recorded history, made a significant impact on the modest progress we have achieved towards the Goals.
Two months ago, a Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan for the Haiyan-affected areas had been completed, which would require a considerable amount of resources and effort, but the Philippines and its international partners are determined to see this massive rebuilding and rehabilitation plan to full completion.