“China is violating our Exclusive Economic Zone as well as the territorial sea and the extended continental shelf.”
This was pointed out by Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarete during a forum about the US-China power play called “Asserting Sovereignty Round-Table Discussion,” which was conducted by the Patriotiko Mindanao last June 25 at the Big House, Juna Subdivision, Matina, Davao City.
The forum, with the participation of Kawagib, the League of Filipino Students (LFS), and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), discussed the technicalities, strategies and motives regarding the territorial dispute involving the United States, China, and the Philippines.
When asked why China claims that it is a territorial dispute, Zarete stressed that China started to claim that, historically, they have already occupied these islands even before, although it is being disputed by several scholars.
“This is very much covered by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. UNCLOS covers issues related to maritime disputes, so that is why the proper avenue for this kind of dispute is the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS),” he said.
Zarete also emphasized that the nature of the dispute is not territorial, but maritime.
“Recently, the latest evidence that we presented to ITLOS is a centuries-old map. It was clearly indicated there that these disputed islands are part of Philippine territory, but we are saying that there are already areas inside our territory that are being occupied by China, even beyond our Exclusive Economic Zone.
“What they are doing now to say that this is a territorial dispute is conducting more massive reclamation and occupation of these disputed islands?”
Zarate also discussed that the Philippine government had finally taken action in response to the issue.
“We are glad that finally, the Philippine government filed a case at ITCLOS so that this can be resolved by an international tribunal,” he said.
Regarding the tension between the United States of America and China, Zarete said in his report that the latter wanted to be a great power in Asia in its own right and that it wanted to achieve this by no longer being dependent on the US consuming their products.
The round-table discussion also tackled the issue regarding Chinese President Xi Jinping wanting to achieve economic growth and political stability, and doing this by taking resources from the Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands, located in the West Philippine Sea, which are also claimed by China as part of their property.
Patriotiko Mindanao Secretary General Sheena Duazo also stated that the purpose of the forum was to raise awareness about sovereignty issues.
“We gathered the different individuals and groups in Davao City to discuss the current issue on the China-Philippines dispute on the West Philippine Sea, [and] at the same time, to assert our territorial and sovereign rights as Filipino people. We also want to clarify [this] issue and how Filipinos should assert their national sovereignty.”
Meanwhile, local leaders, artists, university teachers, and student representatives and leaders also attended the event.