MANILA - The Philippines expects China to reject its protests over disputes in the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea).
On Wednesday, China said it will not accept the “so-called protest” of the Philippines over the water cannon incident at the Scarborough Shoal last January 27.
The country is also set to file a “memorial” with an arbitral tribunal by March 30, which is meant to debunk China’s nine-dash line which justifies its claim over 90% of the entire West Philippine Sea.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary and Spokesman Raul Hernandez said China will also likely snub the memorial.
“Well, they’ve said they’re not participating in any arbitral proceeding but the procedures there would always allow them to be consulted each step of the way. I suppose they will be consistent with that [rejecting protests], but we are still inviting them to join us in arbitration so we’ll be able to resolve this peacefully,” he told ANC.
The country brought before an arbitral tribunal in the early part of last year its claim over the West Philippine Sea.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides that “If one of the parties to the dispute does not appear before the arbitral tribunal or fails to defend its case, the other party may request the tribunal to continue the proceedings and to make its award. Absence of a party or failure of a party to defend its case shall not constitute a bar to the proceedings. Before making its award, the arbitral tribunal must satisfy itself not only that it has jurisdiction over the dispute but also that the claim is well founded in fact and law.”
Hernandez said that even with China’s snub, procedures under the rules-based approach mean it will still be asked to comment on all moves the Philippines will undertake.
“We continue advocating for a peaceful approach...,” Hernandez said.
He said the country also continues to prod the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to finally come up with a Code of Conduct that will govern movements in the disputed seas.
He said these approaches are “durable and permanent.”
He said he also expects the United States to honor its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty if the conflict with China escalates.
“For now, we won’t go into that because it’s a bit speculative. We’ll cross the bridge when we get there but what’s important is that both parties are committed to settling this issue peacefully,” he said.