MANILA - Malacañang yesterday welcomed US Ambassador Philip Goldberg’s rebuff of China’s expanded territorial claim with its new “10-dash line.”
“We certainly welcome the statement of the US embassy in respect of the position taken by our Philippine government,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told state-run radio station dzRB.
“Adding another dash to the nine-dash line does not add any whit of legitimacy to its (China’s) claim and for that particular reason, we have strongly emphasized that we have pursued the arbitration case before the international court,” Lacierda said.
On Thursday, Goldberg told a gathering of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) that Beijing’s expanded claim has no basis in international law.
He also voiced support for Manila’s filing of protest against China’s reclamation activities in disputed waters.
In his speech, Goldberg said the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) “speaks about artificial creations not being the kind of features that would be covered.” He was apparently referring to China’s construction of artificial islets and reefs in disputed waters to stretch its territorial claim.
He reiterated the US position that maritime conflicts should be settled “through tribunals, code of conduct, observance of declarations of conduct, negotiations directly with parties” and not through unilateral action, intimidation or force.
Lacierda noted that the Philippines has been strongly advocating the adoption of a Code of Conduct for claimants in the South China Sea.
China and Southeast Asian countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in 2002. However, specific and binding guidelines have yet to be approved.
Lacierda also said the Palace “will certainly support the position taken by our foreign affairs department” on China’s release of a vertical map showing the latter’s expansive territorial claim.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is planning to file another diplomatic protest over Beijing’s release of the new map.
“It is also good to note that the international community’s support for our emphasis on the rule of law is very consistent,” the Palace official said.
Last March, the Philippines submitted a memorial or written argument of its position to the United Nations arbitral tribunal in The Hague. China has refused to recognize the tribunal, insisting it has “indisputable sovereignty” over almost the entire South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.
For Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, countries with competing claims in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea should agree on a common “international highway” to ensure freedom of navigation in the contested waters.
Marcos said she made the proposal before some heads of state and officials from various countries during the 60th anniversary of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries in Beijing last month.
“When I got to China, the first question was the Spratly (islands), I said it is ours because it is within 48 miles near Palawan, and it’s about 800 miles away from China,” she said.
“There’s a gap, there’s a space, so I suggested that let us make a NASA for the ocean, let us make an international highway to give freedom for everybody to enjoy the world,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the Philconsa forum Thursday night. NASA is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which runs the US space program.
“Like we have a NASA for space, you can even go to the moon, so maybe let’s have a NASA for the oceans, and my recommendation then was to put an international highway so it will give freedom to everybody to enjoy the world and move around the world, and give justice to those who are landlocked,” Marcos said. – Paolo Romero, Jaime Laude