Mon, Jun 20, 2011 - Page 4 News List

Manila says naval vessel to enforce maritime law

DESIRABLE WATERS:A Philippine general said the ship would not enter international waters and expressed hope that any conflict would be settled diplomatically

AFP, MANILA

The Philippines’ military chief said yesterday the country’s naval flagship would not go beyond the country’s 200 nautical mile (370.4km) exclusive economic zone as it prepares to deploy near disputed South China Sea waters.

However, General Eduardo Oban said he remained optimistic that the territorial dispute would be solved peacefully and avoid a potential armed confrontation.

“We hope it will not reach that point,” Oban told reporters when asked if sending the flagship Rajah Humabon to the area could stoke clashes.

He said the ship would be confined to its maritime boundaries and would not stray into international waters.

“I am optimistic that whatever conflicts may arise there will be settled peacefully and diplomatically, although what I am saying is that we will have to [also] enforce maritime laws within our 200 nautical mile zone,” he said.

Manila said on Friday it would deploy the Rajah Humabon to the South China Sea, a day after China announced that one of its maritime patrol vessels was also scheduled to pass through the area.

Both countries, as well Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims over potentially resource-rich areas in the South China Sea, particularly the Spratly Islands.

China claims the entire South China Sea as its historical fishing grounds, but the Philippines says that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea states that a country has exclusive economic rights over waters that fall within 200 nautical miles of its continental shelf.

The Philippines’ zone overlaps in some places with those of claims by the other claimants to the Spratlys.

The Rajah Humabon, a former US Navy frigate that served during World War II, is one of the world’s oldest warships. It was commissioned in the Philippine Navy in 1980.

Tensions in the long-running dispute over the area have flared in recent months on allegations by the Philippines and Vietnam that China has become increasingly aggressive in staking its territorial claims.

The Philippines accused China this month of sending naval vessels to intimidate rival claimants around the Spratlys, as well as of installing buoys and posts in nearby areas.

Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario met with his counterparts from ASEAN on Friday and called on them to take a common stand against China over the overlapping claims.

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