MANILA, JUNE 13, 2011
 (STAR) (PHOTO - President Aquino greets Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao during the Independence Day reception at Malacañang yesterday. AP]

Malacañang hopes that the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States will help reduce tension with China over the Spratlys.

Speaking to reporters after the Independence Day reception toast of President Aquino, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said the pact may be invoked by the Philippines in any military problem.

“The relevant portion of that treaty is that the US has been our ally and they will come, and we expect na talagang kasama natin sila (they are with us) in any problem that will require their help,” he said.

“It’s a diplomatic problem, it’s a political and diplomatic issue, so we will solve it along those lines,” he said. “We don’t want to encourage anything that will exacerbate the issues there.”

He called for caution in handling the conflict, emphasizing that the issues involve international law and are being addressed diplomatically.

Ochoa said the National Security Council, which he chairs, has not yet convened to discuss the Spratlys issue, although all NSC members have been “in constant communication” with each other on the matter.

President Aquino hopes that dialogue and mutual respect could resolve the differences between the Philippines and China.

“Let us continue along this path, to create partnerships characterized by continued dialogue and a culture of mutual respect for our historic and current partners,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda has asked other claimants to refrain from issuing statements that may heighten tension.

“The Republic of the Philippines has stated its position on the various territorial issues in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“We are committed to dialogue with other claimants. We call on all parties to refrain from inflammatory statements that would make it more difficult to reach a mutually agreeable solution.”

He was specifically referring to the Reed Bank, a territory near Palawan declared by the Philippines as part of its territory.

“Our goal here is really a peaceful resolution, so it’s better for the parties to talk away from the cameras to have a better discussion,” he said.

Lacierda said Malacañang leaves it to the Department of National Defense to make the announcements regarding the measures being taken to protect the Philippine waters._

Philippine-China relations remain good, he added.

Lacierda said China and the Philippines believe that everything should be resolved peacefully through dialogue, Lacierda said.

“We believe in a multi-lateral approach on all the disputed areas including all the claimants in the South China Sea,” he said.

“We strongly believe that in our discussion with China, they are open and very hopeful for a peaceful resolution and this could be done diplomatically.”

Meanwhile, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. does not favor asking US help in the dispute over the Spratlys.

The war games with the US are not a show of force against China, he added.

In an interview after the 113th Independence Day rites in Malolos yesterday, Belmonte said the Philippines must sit down with other claimants.

“Right now, ang unang dapat gawin ay makasama ang iba pang claimants, di lang tayo, magkaisa tayo ng stand vis a vis China.” he said. (The first thing that needs to be done is to get together with other claimants and reach a common stand vis a vis China).

“I’m not in favor na tawagin ang Estados Unidos, kung may tatawagin tayo, magpulong pulong muna tayo, tawagin muna ang lahat ng claimants.” (Am not in favor of calling in the US. If we have to call someone let’s gather all the claimants first). —Delon Porcalla, Dino Balabo


Spratlys in talks with US Intrusions by Chinese cause inclusion in top agenda BY WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL REPORTER

THE disputed Spratly group of islands in the West Philippine or South China Sea would be among the top agenda in the forthcoming RP-US Mutual Defense Board (MDB) annual meeting among top military officials of the two countries.

“Definitely, definitely [that will be tackled] because of the recent statements [from the Philippines, China and Vietnam] and developments that we’ve been hearing and seeing,” Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr., said on Sunday.

He said that he would also take the opportunity to ask his United States counterpart to help the Armed Forces in the development of a “national coast system” that would enable the military to adequately monitor the Philippine coastline and protect its maritime resources.

Oban added that P11.9 billion had been allocated for the development of a “coast watch west” that covers, among others, the Spratlys. Part of that will also include the acquisition from the US Coast Guard of a large and modern Hamilton-class cutter patrol craft that is due to arrive in August.

“We would have coast watch stations there [in the West Philippine Sea], coast watch center. We would have radars and communication equipment there, basically that’s for detection and monitoring,” he said.

The Armed Forces chief stressed though that the development of a coast watch system in the West Philippine Sea has long been planned even before the series of Chinese incursions on Philippine territories. It is also not a sign that the Philippines is engaging China in an arms race.

“We would like to ask their [US] support in the development of the national coast system. What we need is not modernization, this is not an arms race. We were just putting the baseline development that any self-respecting nation should have, much more for the Philippines, which is a maritime nation,” Oban said.

This year’s MDB meeting is tentatively set in August in Hawaii. Last year, it was held at the Armed Forces headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City (Metro Manila).

Mutual defense The meeting, Oban explained, was in connection with the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) that was signed in August 30, 1951, or almost 61 years ago in Washington, D.C. by the Philippine and US governments.

Eight articles under the MDT provide that the Philippines and US would support each other if either of them were to be attacked by another country.

Despite repeated denials by the Chinese, Oban maintained that the military has enough evidence to prove its claim of Chinese intrusions into Philippine territory.

The military report, according to him, has been the basis of the diplomatic protest filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) against China.

“If ever we see some similar incursions or violations, we’ll furnish the DFA a complete report. We are leaving it to the DFA,” he added.

Palace expectations Malacañang said also on Sunday that the Philippines expects the US to be its ally in case the territorial dispute over Spratly Islands worsens.

During a chance interview in Malacañang, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. cited the MDT between the Philippines and the US.

“We have a standing Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

The relevant portion of that treaty is that the United States has been our ally,” he said.

The Palace, however, remains committed to a peaceful resolution of the Spratlys issue. Ochoa said that the Spratlys issue was a “political and diplomatic issue so we will solve it along those lines also.”

“We don’t want to encourage anything that will exacerbate the issues there. So everybody should be very careful in handling this issue with the Chinese,” he said.

“We have a position that we have made clear to the Chinese and that is being discussed diplomatically,” Ochoa added.

The Executive Secretary said that there was no discussion yet on whether to convene the National Security Cluster of the Cabinet, but he said that they were in “constant communications” on the Spratly issue.

Meanwhile, deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said that Malacañang was not invoking the MTD at this time, adding that the Philippines is committed to resolve the conflict in “the most diplomatic and peaceful way possible.”

“We respect the statement Ms. Rebecca Thompson on the position of the United States on regional dispute but we would like to point out that according to the Mutual Defense Treaty which was signed by both the Philippines and the United States in 1951, there was no provision there that excludes regional dispute,” she said. WITH REPORT FROM CRIS G. ODRONIA

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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