13 February 2015

International arbitration still country’s preference to resolve West Philippine Sea dispute, says Palace
The Philippines will persist with its position to resolve the West Philippine Sea issue in accordance with international law and through the creation of a binding code of conduct in the contested area, a Palace official said on Friday.

“Hindi natitinag ang posisyon ng ating pamahalaan hinggil sa pangangailangan na pairalin ang isang rules-based approach sa pagharap sa mga usapin sa West Philippine Sea o South China Sea,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters during the daily press briefing in Malacañang when asked to comment on a US Navy official’s statement on China’s aggressive stance in the West Philippine Sea.

“Ang ating pamahalaan ay nagharap na ng usapin sa arbitral tribunal upang ito ay pagpasyahan sa ilalim ng United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

The Philippines has continued to push for the need to resolve the issue by crafting a Code of Conduct to be agreed upon by all the claimants.

This is based on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea agreed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China in 2002, he said.

Coloma further said that there is already a consensus among ASEAN members for the creation of a binding code of conduct, which will serve as the guiding principle in ensuring stability in the region, despite the conflicting territorial claims.

“Kaya hindi natitinag ang posisyon ng ating pamahalaan hinggil sa mga dapat na maganap sa paglutas ng usapin sa South China Sea o West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Citing an outgoing US Navy intelligence official as its source, a newspaper has stated that China is flexing its muscles and preparing for military conflict in Asia.

The report said the warning came amid Beijing’s reclamation efforts in the disputed reefs that are part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Philippines continues to protest China’s reclamation works in areas within the Philippines’ EEZ as this is inconsistent with the declaration agreed in 2002.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan are also laying claim to parts of the West Philippine Sea. PND (as)

Palace reiterates eagerness to find out the truth behind the Mamasapano incident
Like the Filipino public, the Palace is equally interested in knowing the truth about the Mamasapano incident that led to the death of 44 members of the police’s Special Action Force (SAF), a Palace official said Friday.

During a press briefing, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. denied any cover-up on the part of the military and police officials participating in the ongoing congressional investigation on the incident.

“Walang pagtatakip at walang pagkukubli. Mahalagang mailabas ang buong katotohanan,” he told reporters.

Coloma said that in the speeches made by President Benigno S. Aquino III following the bloody encounter between the police’s elite force and Moro rebels on January 25, he reiterated the need to know the truth about the clash.

“Sa lahat ng pagkakataon—tatlong talumpati na nga ang ginawa niya—ay inuulit niya ang prinsipyo na bahagi ito ng paggawad ng katarungan sa kabayanihan ng SAF 44,” he said.

He noted that the President remains determined to get to the bottom of what occurred in Mamasapano, as a way of serving justice to the dead commandos and their families.

On the conflicting information on the exact time the President was informed about the clash, Coloma said the public must wait for all the information to be threshed out before coming up with conclusions.

The congressional inquiry is still ongoing although Senator Grace Poe, who heads the Senate committee doing the investigation, has indicated her intention to wrap up the inquiry after a few days of hearings.

Coloma said that instead of looking at anecdotal citations, people must wait for all the facts to come in before drawing conclusions.

“Kaya nga sinabi natin dito noong makalawa pa, it may be inappropriate at this time to make commentaries on specific comments or testimonies of individual resource persons, as the inquiry is still ongoing,” he said.

“It would be premature to draw certain conclusions based on incomplete information,” he added. PND (as)

Palace: Government, MILF must study proposal for independent Mamasapano probe
Chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Mohagher Iqbal’s call for an independent body to investigate the deadly Mamasapano clash must be studied thoroughly, a Palace official said on Friday.

“Kailangan pong pag-aralan ang panukalang ito,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing when asked about Iqbal’s proposal.

During the Senate hearing on the Maguindanao incident on Thursday, Iqbal suggested the participation of the United Nations to do an inquiry to ensure an impartial investigation.

Iqbal said that aside from their own investigation, they were pushing for an independent probe on the Mamasapano incident.

He said that they were encountering such problems as perception and speculation.

The MILF, he said, is willing to meet with its government counterparts to discuss further the independent investigation.

The government has created a Board of Inquiry to investigate what happened in the Mamasapano incident. The MILF is also doing its own probe.

The government and the MILF signed a peace pact last year and is working for a Bangsamoro political entity when the Mamasapano incident occurred.

Special Action Force (SAF) commandos targeted terrorist suspects, Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Basit Usman, on January 25, but they clashed with members of the MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as they were moving out of the area.

The encounter left 44 SAF commandos dead. PND (as)

Goverment ready to deal with MERS-CoV, says Palace
The government is fully equipped to prevent the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) disease in the country and is intensifying efforts to guard all ports of entry, such as airports and seaports, a Palace official has said.Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement issued on Friday that according to the Department of Health (DOH), there is only one confirmed MERS-CoV case in the country — a Filipina nurse who is currently confined at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

He noted that the 11 individuals admitted at the RITM have exhibited symptoms of the disease but initial laboratory results were negative.

The RITM, he said, will continue to conduct further tests to ensure that these patients are free of the MERS-CoV disease. PND (jm)