Philippines, South China Sea, territorial claim

The Philippines has submitted evidence to a UN tribunal hearing its case against China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.


Both sides have overlapping claims in the sea, leading to severe tensions.


The Western Command in Palawan is tasked to protect the disputed islands of the South China Sea.


One of these is Ayungin Shoal, an uninhabited atoll, about 105 nautical miles from Palawan.


Lt. General Rustico Guerrero is the former Commander of the Western Command


“As far as the WesCom is concerned we are continuously monitoring our good friends in that area with what is available in my command. We provide reports to the national leadership for their appreciation. Rest assured that we will not leave Ayungin…”


Nine soldiers just came back from guarding the disputed Ayungin Shoal or Jen-ai'Chiao as claimed by China.


Marine Lieutenant Mike Pelotera is the head of the troop that stayed in the shoal for the last five months.


Their outpost was a grounded 1970s navy ship.


“It’s a ship that was acquired from the United States in 1976. It was grounded in 1999, so it’s more than a decade there already. It’s in bad condition and very rusty.”


China is a military giant compared to the Philippines.


It uses bigger and better-equipped ships to keep other countries out of South China Sea, says Lt. Pelotera. 


“The usual bullying tactics, they blow very loud noises from the horn. The sound is irritating and deafening. Aside from that, they chase us or block our way so can’t enter the area.”


The Philippines says that China's claims are illegal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.


It’s now hoping the UN’s Permanent Court of Arbitration will rule in its favour. 


Analysts say the move will only increase tension.


But President Benigno Aquino III insists it’s the best way to resolve the dispute….


“That is consistent with the policy that is peaceful and in conformity with the international law…We are also setting the track of pushing the code of conduct.


China’s claims are based on its historical maps saying Chinese activities in the area date back 2,000 years.


Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.


President Aquino insists that the Philippines does not want to provoke China.


“What we are trying to resolve is to make sure who is entitled to what, what are the rights of each one, what are the obligations of every state. So we are not here to challenge China or to provoke them in a reaction but I do believe that we have the right to protect our own interests…”


The Philippines has submitted more than 40 maps and about 4,000 pages of documents to the UN court. 

 

China has refused to take part in the arbitration and warned that the case will damage bilateral ties.


The court in The Hague may not reach a decision before the end of 2015.

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