Press Release
September 11, 2013


Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III today said that only a new agreement binding China and countries comprising the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that includes the Philippines could create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Pimentel said that he is fully supporting the position of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario for the ASEAN to speed up their negotiations with the Chinese government to conclude the proposed Code of Conduct that would be binding for the peaceful and orderly maritime protocol in one of the world's most vital waterways.

He said that China will not gain from its bullying tactics, but will stand to earn great respect and admiration from its neighbors and the world by helping resolve the conflict to bring order and ease tensions in the area in the face of what the Philippines dubbed as new occupational moves by the regional giant in the contested Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

"We will not fight a war of conquest, but we will defend our territory to secure the rights of our people," said Pimentel. "We are bound only by the purity of our intentions and the justice of our cause."

Pimentel said that Filipino fishermen long plying their living in what is known locally as Bajo de Masinloc have been harassed and prevented from fishing by Chinese ships stationed in the shoal that is only some 230 kilometers off Zambales within the country's 370-km exclusive economic zone, but more than 874 km. from the nearest China coast.

But China said that the shoal, known to the Chinese as Huangyan Island, is part of its "intrinsic territory" where several concrete blocks were discovered recently by Philippine authorities to have been set up in an obvious preparation for the construction of new facilities.

Pimentel said that the latest Chinese incursion to ostensibly expand its territory is a clear and present threat to peace in the region which both countries and the ASEAN must avoid to prevent the escalation of armed confrontation in the critical international shipping route, believed to contain rich reservoir of mineral gas and oil.

At the same time, Pimentel urged Filipino officials and other member-countries of the ASEAN that have overlapping claims in the contested seas to search for peaceful solutions to the conflict for posterity, and not to fuel fears of armed skirmishes in what is considered as one of the most vital waterways in the region.

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