DFA pushes awareness on West Philippine Sea issue

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (10 November 2015) – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), together with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), continues the nationwide information campaign in regards to the West Philippine Sea issue in order to raise awareness of ordinary citizens. The multi-sectoral forum was held October 29 at Phela Grande Hotel. It was attended by DFA spokesperson Assistant Sec. Charles Jose and joined by heads from PIA and other panel of resource persons. “This is a matter of national interest. Itataas natin ang antas ng kaalaman at pag unawa ng ating mga mamamayan sa napakahalagang usapin sa South China Sea at West Philippine Sea,” stated Asec. Jose. In the forum, the resource persons were confronted with several intricate questions regarding the possible outcome of the Philippine’s claim on West Philippines Sea including the consequences and steps of the International Tribunal in the enforcement of the possible judgment. Few significant questions asked delved about resolution of sovereignty in relation to maritime claim of the Philippines and the economic activities in the contested area. “Pwede ma-settle yung maritime dispute without settling the territorial dispute first. Hindi dependent yung maritime sa territorial. In the first place, complex yung territorial. Hindi madaling ma resolba and the only way to settle that is through the International Court of Justice,” Asec. Jose explained. Further, he mentioned that in the arbitration case submitted to the Arbitration Tribunal of UNCLOS initiated January 22, 2013, the Philippines only need affirmation of ownership and the nullification of China’s maritime entitlement based on its nine-dash line historical right. Meanwhile, during the forum, recommendations were heard from the participants such as to develop the country’s human capital, station more forces in the disputed area and call for unity and awareness of every individual all over the Philippines. Dr. Emelyn Libunao, staff director of the Program Management Division of PIA, pointed out the four guiding principles to follow in helping resolve the issue and not to sever the ties with China. “We go for peaceful settlements of dispute. We go for respect in the rule of law because we believe that is the great equalizer. Thirdly, the West Philippine Sea is not the sum total of our relationship with China. Finally, war is not an option,” Libunao stated. The DFA and PIA officials also made an appeal to spread awareness on the issue. They said “we appeal to you. Tulungan nyo po kami sa aming advocacy at information campaign. Mas malawak ang inyong reach kaysa sa amin. Help us to spread the message sa inyong mga mimamahal sa buhay, sa mga ka trabaho at ka opisina.” (Gensan CPIO/ Sharmagne Villacastin)