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Philippines, Indonesia reach pact on sea dispute

May 19, 2014

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines said Monday it has reached an agreement with Indonesia on a sea border dispute after 20 years of negotiations, and hopes to sign the pact soon.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said the Southeast Asian neighbors concluded their talks over the weekend in Jakarta, Indonesia, with a draft accord and a chart showing the agreed boundary of their overlapping exclusive economic zones in the Celebes Sea and Mindanao Sea.

An exclusive economic zone is the 230-mile (370-kilometer) stretch of sea where a country has exclusive rights to fish and exploit undersea gas and oil deposits under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Negotiators endorsed the accord for signing by the two countries’ top diplomats “at the soonest possible time,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Department spokesman Charles Jose said the agreement, details of which have not yet been released, was welcome news in a region that has been buffeted by long-seething territorial rifts in another body of water, the busy South China Sea, involving China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Foreign Undersecretary Evan Garcia, who headed the Philippine delegations in the Jakarta talks, said in the statement that the conclusion of the border talks reflected the two countries’ “friendship, patience, goodwill and commitment ... to peacefully address maritime issues.”

“This is a significant contribution to, and an example of, reasonable efforts to build a stable and peaceful regional community ... in accordance with international law,” Garcia said.

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