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PH unsure if a reso vs. China will have enough votes in UN

The Philippine government is uncertain if a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution calling out Chinese aggression and incursions in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) will gain enough support from the international community, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Tuesday.

Manalo was responding to the query of Kabataan party-list Representative Raoul Manuel if the Senate resolution seeking a UN resolution calling out China before the UNGA is an option.

“That [Senate resolution] was pertaining to putting a UN General Assembly Resolution which is a different matter because there are a lot of considerations to make when you table a resolution in the UNGA. It is one thing to debate, one thing to discuss. We can do that, and we have been doing that, but a UNGA resolution is  a slightly different matter and politicized, in our view,” Manalo said.

"It becomes very political. It is not about legal or humanitarian [issues] anymore. We cannot predict how countries will vote or support,” Manalo added.

The Foreign Affairs chief said that the unprecedented legal victory of the Philippines with the July 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which junked China’s expansive claim of the entire South China Sea, is enough legal ground to stand on and could unnecessarily be subjected to debate if the UNGA resolution calling out China’s aggression does not get the support of the majority.

The same Hague ruling upheld the Philippines' EEZ in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) which is 200 nautical miles off territorial sea and outlawed Chinese aggression in common fishing ground areas.

“A ruling is legally in place, why would a political body decide on it? That is one of the considerations in having a UNGA resolution," Manalo pointed out.

Veteran lawmaker and lawyer Edcel Lagman of Albay agreed.

"The court decision is final and executory. It has to be enforced. We have no idea how geopolitics work, how many members are for us or against us. We should not take that risk and instead have a meeting with kindred countries supporting our claims," Lagman said.

Manalo, however, clarified that the UNGA resolution is just one of the measures that the Senate resolution provides in addressing Chinese aggression within the Philippines’ EEZ.

“We have talked to the Senate on how to deal with this issue, and how to bring forth our concerns on harassment of China, including gathering support from other allies,” Manalo said.

The Senate resolution seeks to bring international attention to China’s harassment of Filipino fishermen in the Philippine EEZ and its continued violation of the Hague Ruling and the United  Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

It also aims to utilize international fora to rally multilateral support for the enforcement of the Hague Ruling and raise awareness on the real situation in the WPS.

It pushes to engage like-minded countries in various international organizations, meetings, and other fora to call on China to respect the Hague Ruling and the UNCLOS and subject to necessity and prudence and
pursuing such other diplomatic modes as the DFA may deem appropriate and necessary

“A number of countries which did not speak out before have come out with statements such as Australia, South Korea and India. That is the approach we are taking: gathering enough support from partners who share our positions and views,” Manalo said.—LDF, GMA Integrated News