Abante Mindanao Party-list Congressman Maximo B. Rodriguez has filed House Resolution No 2402 that directs the Foreign Affairs Committee
to conduct an investigation on the disputed Scarborough Shoal and to exhaust all legal remedies in order to preserve Philippine sovereignty.
Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez of the second district of Cagayan de Oro also coauthored the resolution to give added weight so that Congress
would act on the matter.
The two congressmen said that Philippines, China, Vietnan, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan believed that the Scarborough
Shoal is rich in oil and gas and these overlapping claims have long been feared as Asias next sourve of tension which could lead to arm conflict.
Early April of this year, a Philippine Navy surveillance plane spotted eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in a lagoon at Scarborough which
prompted the military to deploy its largest warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which was recently acquired from the United States.
Upon boarding the Chinese fishing vessels for an inspection, Filipino sailors discovered large amounts of illegally collected coral, giant clams and
live sharks inside the first boat which only shows that the Chinese fishermen had been engaged in illegal fishing and Solons to Foreign Affairs Committee: Act on Scarborough Shoal dispute harvesting of endangered marine species.
Two Chinese maritime surveillance ships later approached and positioned themselves between the Philippine warship and the Chinese fishing vessels which prevented the arrests of the erring Chinese fishermen.
This event has brought about the current stand-off between the Philippines and China in the Scarborough Shoal which is causing increased tension between the two countries involved.
According to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez, the Philippines had formally invited China to bring their claims to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in a note verbale which also calls on China to respect the Philippines’ sovereignty and sovereign rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) over Panatag Shoal and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ);
Mr. Hernandez said that, “we have also formally invited China to join the Philippines in bringing the issue before an appropriate third-party adjudication body under international law, specifically ITLOS, with respect to the rights and obligations of the two countries in the Philippines’ EEZ.
This approach would resolve on a long-term basis any differences of position on the issue, and ensure a peaceful, stable, and lasting bilateral relationship between the Philippines and China”.
Even as China has refused to accept arbitration by an international tribunal to settle the dispute, Secretary-General Henry Bensurto Jr. of the DFA Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs Secretariat has said that the Philippine government could raise the issue for settlement even without Chinese consent.
He said that the UNCLOS has a unique feature that allows signatory states to avail themselves of compulsory dispute
settlement in cases when consensual mechanisms for settlement fail.
Mr. Bensurto argued that the need for consent from the opposing state as far as the UNCLOS is concerned refers only to territorial disputes and that the DFA is not pursuing a settlement over a territorial dispute but rather a maritime issue involving the waters under the jurisdiction of the Philippines.
It is therefore imperative that the Philippine government, particularly the DFA look into all possible legal remedies to bring the issue to an international tribunal and exert all legal efforts to protect the territory and sovereignty of the country and not bow down to a bigger and stronger nation.