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Int'l tribunal not solution to sea tensions

(Xinhua)

08:14, May 14, 2012

The Philippines has been seeking an international arbitration to resolve a month-long maritime standoff with Beijing over Huangyan Island in the South China Sea, but a closer look at the proposal easily puts Manila's real motives in question.

Analysts said the proposal lacks legal ground and is not a right solution at all.

Not a solution

Tensions have been running high since the April 10 episode when a Philippine warship entered waters off Huangyan Island and acted under the pretext of "protecting sovereignty" to harass Chinese fishermen, who were taking shelter from a storm in the lagoon.

In a show of what it called restraint, Manila has proposed to bring the disputes to the International Tribunal For the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to decide the ownership of the island.

"We do not wish to escalate any tensions right now," Philipine President Benigno Aquino's spokesman said. "Therefore, what we're doing for now is to just to document the situation ... and consequently raise (it) before the tribunals."

However, analysts doubted whether the proposal, which is short of legal ground, could provide a way out of the current stalemate.

"President Benigno Aquino and his officials have been ... complaining to the world that China is refusing to have the dispute settled by the International Tribunal for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," Rigoberto Tiglao, former ambassador of the Philippines to Athens, said in an article carried on the website of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

"They're in for a surprise: The Philippines isn't also with the UNCLOS -- when it comes to sovereignty disputes like that on Scarborough (known in the West for Huangyan Island)."

He pointed out that back in 1984 when ratifying the treaty, Manila has made it clear that the convention could not apply to its sovereignty disputes.

To put it simply, the Filipinos would deem the treaty null and void when it comes to territorial disputes, Tiglao said.

Aquino has made no mention of such a thing when he proposed to let the international tribunal handle the case.

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