DFA continues with info campaign on maritime dispute


THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday that it continued to hold seminars and forums on the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea despite China’s opposition.

In a statement, the DFA said that campus tours and a multi-sectoral forum were conducted in Palawan from June 29 to July 1.

This was in partnership with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

This was the second time for the department to hold the briefing in Palawan, the island closes to the Philippine-claimed Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the West Philippine Sea.

“The forums aim to present the core issues of the West Philippine Sea dispute, the principles guiding Philippine official policy, and the Philippine government’s efforts to protect the country’s interests, and to elicit questions and views from a mixed audience,” the department said.

Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, was the one who gave a lecture on the West Philippine Sea issue before students and faculty of the Holy Trinity University on July 29 and the West Philippines University on July 30.

He expressed the DFA and PIA’s appreciation to the two universities for their support to the West Philippine Sea information campaigns.

In his interactions with the audience, he stressed the need for students and the academe in Palawan universities to maintain a high level of awareness and appreciation of the issue.

The DFA spokesperson also delivered a comprehensive briefing on the West Philippine Sea issue before an audience composed of local government officials, representatives of the fisheries and other industries, members of the media, and uniformed personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Coast Guard on June 30.

It was followed by a presentation by Vice Admiral of the AFP Western Command Alexander Lopez on China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea.

Jose and Lopez discussed the reclamation activities conducted by China in the West Philippine Sea, and emphasized how these activities are damaging the marine ecosystem in the area.

The panel of speakers for the open forum consisted of Assistant Jose, Lopez, Kalayaan Municipal Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., Philippine Coast Guard Commander (Palawan District) George Ursabia, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Chief (Palawan Office) Mario Basaya.

“The speakers readily answered questions from the audience and encouraged the audience to discuss the issue further in their own communities.”

“The DFA and PIA will continue to hold multi-sectoral forums throughout the country within the year.”

Since the information campaign was launched in 2015, similar forums were already held in Cebu City, Cagayan de Oro City, Subic, Olongapo, Laoag City and Vigan City.

The next multi-sectoral forum is set to be held in Tuguegarao City.

In June, the Philippines released the first two parts of its three-part series documentary on the West Philippine Sea issue.

The department aims to educate and inform the public of the government’s policy on the maritime dispute, as well as what it is doing to counter Beijing’s reclamation activities in the resource-rich region.

China has frowned upon the documentary, and alleged that the Philippine government is misleading the public about its rights in the disputed territories.

The Philippines and China have decades-old disputes on the West Philippine Sea that intensified in 2012 during the two-month naval standoff in the Scarborough Shoal.

Since January, a year after the Philippines filed an arbitral tribunal before a United Nations court, China has been massively building on reclaimed reefs and islands.

It recently announced that the reclamation project has been completed, and it will move forward to the next phase–constructing facilities, including defense installations. (CVB/Sunnex)

Read More: http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/local-news/2015/07/02/dfa-continues-info-campaign-maritime-dispute-416533

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