MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) withheld comment yesterday on Beijing’s vow to undertake “clear and firm reactions” to what it perceives as provocative acts in the South China Sea.
DFA spokesman Charles Jose said the matter would be tackled today in his regular press briefing.
The DFA had underscored the need for a settlement mechanism to bring the disputes to a final and enduring resolution anchored on international law.
“The Philippines is pursuing such a resolution through arbitration and believes that the arbitration award will clarify the maritime entitlements for all parties, which will be the basis for the settlement of maritime disputes,” the DFA said in a previous statement.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire sea including waters, islands, reefs, shoals and rocky outcrops nearer to other countries, including the Philippines.
In its 4,000-page memorial filed before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last March 30, Manila presented its arguments and evidence 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 the opportunity to submit its counter-memorial by Dec. 15 this year.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said over the weekend the position of China to safeguard its own sovereignty, maritime rights and interests is “firm and unshakable.”
He also said the situation in the contested waters was currently “stable” and Beijing always acted with “self-restraint.”
“However, for those groundless provocative activities, the Chinese side is bound to make clear and firm reactions,” he warned.
Wang issued the statement on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting at Naypyidaw, Myanmar.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, on the other hand, officially presented Manila’s proposal for a Triple Action Plan during the ASEAN meeting. One of the proposed actions in the TAP is to freeze any activity in the disputed territories while an arbitration process is ongoing.
Del Rosario also reminded summit participants of the deteriorating situation in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea due to “an increased pattern of aggressive behavior and provocative actions” in the region.
He was apparently referring to China’s brazen staking of its claim over some islets, shoals, coral reefs and sandbars within the exclusive economic zones of other countries, including the Philippines.
The ASEAN foreign ministers acknowledged the urgent need to address the tensions in the South China Sea in a manner that is peaceful and constructive, consistent with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and in accordance with international law.