Panatag Re-Stand-off: Philippines will send back Warship, New People Army raise hands to Fight with Army to Defeat China invaders

The Philippine government may soon send back its ships to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal if China does not comply with an earlier agreement between the two countries to pull out their vessels from the hotly-contested rock formation in the West Philippine Sea, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.

At the sidelines of the Center for Strategic and International Studies forum in Washington, DC Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), where he was invited as keynote speaker, Del Rosario said China reneged on the agreement reached sometime in June during negotiations in Manila between him and Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing.

"There was an agreement between the two countries that ships will be pulled out from the shoal. The Philippines pulled out their ship but the Chinese did not comply with the agreement," said Del Rosario during the question-and-answer portion.

 "We believe they (China) should do this and of course if they continue to violate Philippine sovereign rights in that area, then we will have to consider a response. We do not know what that response is just yet," he added.

The Philippines insists Panatag Shoal (also known locally as Bajo de Masinloc), which is 124 nautical miles off Masinloc in Zambales, is part of its territory. A similar claim is being made by China on historical grounds.

China refused to consider the Philippine position to settle the dispute by bringing the matter before an international arbitration body, saying the matter should be discussed bilaterally.

Recent reconnaissance flights of the Philippine Air Force showed that China still has three government ships outside the shoal's lagoon. The Chinese have also cordoned off the shoal's entrance using ropes.

President Aquino ordered the withdrawal of two government ships from the shoal last June due to bad weather. Independent fishing bans were likewise raised by Manila and Beijing over the area, supposedly to diffuse the tension but Chinese fishermen continued to fish there.

Del Rosario, in his keynote speech, again called for a rules-based approach in resolving the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, saying it is the only legitimate and viable way to address the issue.

 "Let me make it clear: our foreign policy does not seek to isolate one country, nor even force the resolution of a dispute. Our core interest lies in being able to contribute to ensuring that the global security and economic system is based firmly on the rule of law. We are firmly committed to helping build an international system that will be just and fair to all states, regardless of economic size or power," he said.

Under the rules-based approach, countries would be governed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) treaty, which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.

"We want to establish an actionable framework to define, clarify, and segregate, in accordance with the UNCLOS, the disputed and non-disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea. This would pave the way for feasible cooperation between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China in the medium-term," he said.

Del Rosario said the Philippines is still studying the possibility of a dispute settlement mechanism under UNCLOS.

As for the diplomatic track, he said Manila will continue to keep channels of discussions with China open. He cited his meeting last month with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, which, he said, shows that high-level contact between Manila and Beijing is being maintained.

New People's Army "Local Reds" vow to fight with AFP forces vs Chinese aggression

Philippine communist rebels, while embracing the ideology of Mao Zedong, will not side with China in the event the two countries' territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) gets ugly.

Jorge Madlos, spokesperson of National Democratic Front in Mindanao, said New People's Army rebels will fight alongside government security forces if China declared war on the Philippines.

"If there is a direct foreign invasion of our country, the focus of the revolutionary movement would be to fight the foreign aggressor," Madlos, also known as Ka Oris, told the Inquirer in a telephone interview.

He said Filipinos stood no chance of winning any war with China if it were fought at sea but if it were to be fought on land, "they (Chinese) don't stand a chance."

Madlos acknowledged that China was a superpower but that fact should not cow Filipinos who should  defend their country at all cost.

However, the senior local communist leader said, he did not believe that China would press its claims over the West Philippine Sea to the extent of going to war with the Philippines and other claimant-countries.

"I don't think China is foolhardy to attack us and wage war with the Philippines," Madlos said.

He also said MalacaƱang should not be too dependent on the United States as it was not helpful in resolving the territorial dispute with China.

"China has looked at us like we are pawns of the US. Because of that outlook, whatever step we take will be suspected of having been dictated by the US," Madlos said.

He said seeking assistance from the US "undermines the resolve of the Filipinos."

Malaya, Inquirer

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