'No basis in law for China's 10-dash line'

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 28 2014 09:08 AM | Updated as of Jun 28 2014 05:08 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Beijing’s expansion of its claim over the South China Sea with a new “10-dash line” has no basis in international law, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said on Thursday.

Goldberg also expressed support for Manila’s protest against China’s reclamation activities in disputed waters.

“Obviously, artificial creations are not part of (international law), so I think you can take it from there, and UNCLOS speaks about artificial creations not being the kind of features that would be covered,” Goldberg told a gathering of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).

UNCLOS stands for United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has filed a protest against China’s reclamation activities on Mabini and McKennan reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said the government was also planning to file protests against China’s ongoing reclamation of Cuarteron and Gaven Reefs.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose said yesterday they may also protest Beijing’s release of a vertical map prominently showing China’s expansive maritime claim.

At the Philconsa gathering, Goldberg also reiterated his country’s support for a more binding code of conduct among claimants to disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

“We think that there should be a code of conduct to further that, and perhaps make it mandatory, as opposed to just a document that people agreed to observe, but make it a document that will have some teeth,” the diplomat said.

Goldberg cited the Philippines’ move to contest China’s claim before the UN arbitral tribunal as an ideal approach to resolving territorial conflicts.

He said maritime claims should be in accord with international law and must be based on established land features supported by the UNCLOS.

He said China and other claimants “may have historical arguments for many things but we believe that the way forward of settling this issue is through tribunals, code of conduct, observance of declarations of conduct, negotiations directly with parties.”

“While we are not siding with one side or the other on various claims, no unilateral action, no intimidation, no force (should be used) to settle this issue,” Goldberg said.

“In support of these principles and in keeping with the long-standing US freedom of navigation program, the US continues to oppose the kinds of policies that infringe on the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea,” he said.

The Philippines on March 30 filed a 4,000-page memorial or written argument before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague against China’s nine-dash line and other aspects of Beijing’s expansive and excessive claims in the West Philippine Sea. The tribunal has given China until Dec.15 to submit its counter-memorial.

Meanwhile, DFA’s Jose said the map released by China is likely to be invalidated by a UN arbitral tribunal decision favorable to the Philippines.

“But nonetheless we are studying whether or not we should protest against the publication of this map. It should be noted the first time China admitted its claim to the UN we already registered our protest so this is already documented and registered with the UN,” Jose said.

“Such a publication only shows China’s unreasonably expansive claim that is clearly contrary to international law and UNCLOS,” he said.

“It is precisely such ambitious expansionism that is causing the tensions in the South China Sea,” he added.

In Subic Bay in Zambales, Philippine and US naval officials insisted yesterday the ongoing joint military exercise called Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) has nothing to do with China’s growing presence in the West Philippine Sea.

“With this exercise with the United States Navy, we are kind of prepared to respond to emergencies like what happened in Tacloban City,” Rear Admiral Jaime Bernardino, Philippine Fleet commander, said, referring to the devastation that befell the city and other regions in the Visayas due to the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

CARAT officially began on Thursday with ceremonies on board BRP Ramon Alcaraz docked at the Rivera wharf at the Subic Bay Freeport.

“The United States Navy is a global navy that operates in international waters and we have been doing this exercise with the Philippine Navy since 1995,” said Rear Admiral Stuart Munsch, US Navy Task Force 74 commander.

Bernardino said the Philippine Navy has committed two of its newly acquired ships and two helicopters to the military exercise.

“We are configuring BRP Alcaraz to improve its capability to be able to detect aircraft, submarines and other surface assets. On the two helicopters acquired last year, we wanted them to become multi-role helicopters,” Bernardino said. Ric Sapnu, Pia Lee-Brago