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China open to talks on South China Sea.

Manila: China has shown openness to start talks with the Philippines on the contentious overlapping claims in the South China Sea, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said.

"We clearly expressed that we have a claim on Panatag [Scarborough] shoal and that it is well-established that it is ours," Roxas told reporters about his recently concluded meeting with Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

"We said, logically, because of [Panatag or Scarborough Shaol's] proximity to our mainland, historically, commonsensically, and legally [because of the provision of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea], we have had this claim over Panatag Shoal for all this time," Roxas explained when asked about the message of President Benigno Aquino to Chinese President Hu Jintao, which was conveyed to Xi.

Roxas said that Aquino's message to Hu was conveyed properly and not lost in translation, adding that his meeting with Xi was cordial.

Philippine and Chinese vessels were on a standoff near Scarborough Shoal since April, after the Chinese government prevented the Philippine Coast Guard to arrest Chinese fishermen who were found poaching on endangered marine life near the shoal.

At the same time, China has also shown openness to discuss with 10-member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) the implementation of the Code of Conduct of claimants on the South China Sea, which was signed by Asean and China in 2002, Roxas said.

China wants to discuss bilaterally with each of the claimants of the South China Sea, the problem of overlapping claims. Asean wants multilateral discussion of the issue, which has made the sea-lane a flash point in the region.

Lawmakers file bill creating Center for West Philippine Sea

Meanwhile, Congressmen Rufus Rodriguez and Maximo Rodriguez, representatives of the southern Philippines, filed a bill at the lower house of Congress, calling for the creation of the Centre for West Philippine Sea, which will study the strength of the claims of the Philippines on the South China Sea and parts of Spratly Archipelago in the contested sea-lane.

"It is the policy of the State to preserve its sovereignty over the islands that it owns in the West Philippine Sea and its territorial sea, contiguous zones, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," Rodriguez said.

The proposed centre will be part of the foreign affairs department's office of special and ocean concerns. It will have the power to propose actions and measures to defend the nation's sovereignty and patrimony with regards to overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

It will also prepare concrete plans the development and utilisation of all natural resources in the area. It will be headed by a foreign affairs secretary.

China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the whole of the South China Sea, based on their respective historical rights.

Brunei, Malaysia, and Philippines claim some parts of the Spratly Archipelago in the South China Sea, based on the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone from the shores of countries, as provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Four of the claimants are Asean members. Asean is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:0PACI
Date:Sep 26, 2012
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