MANILA, Philippines - Claims are just mere claims that may not necessarily generate rights unless duly proven in an appropriate forum, a Philippine diplomat told a forum in Malaysia on Thursday.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Henry Bensurto Jr. told the 2nd Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) in Kuala Lumpur that the Philippines is adhering to the rule of law in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Bensurto emphasized that to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, the region needs a rules-based framework in the management of territorial disputes and the resolution of maritime claims.
“To maintain order and stability in the South China Sea, we need predictability in the way we all behave with each other. To be predictable means we need to have certain agreed standards, rules and norms. These standards, rules and norms in turn must be objective, impartial and non-discriminatory. International law is one objective standard,” he said.
Bensurto added the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which has been universally recognized as the “Constitution of the Oceans,” prescribes rights, obligations and maritime entitlements that should be respected by all state-parties to the Convention.
China addressed in August a note verbale to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) reiterating its rejection of the case filed by the Philippines and Beijing’s refusal to participate in the proceedings.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the proceedings would continue even as China refused anew to participate in the case challenging its excessive claims in the South China Sea.
“There is a fundamental difference between entitlements and claims under international law. Expressed provisions of UNCLOS on maritime entitlements, including a coastal state’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), are rights that lawfully demand respect from all State-Parties,” Bensurto said.
“Claims, on the other hand, are just mere claims that may not necessarily generate rights unless duly proven in an appropriate forum,” he said.
Bensurto led the Philippine delegation to the 4th ASEAN Maritime Forum and 2nd EAMF in Kuala Lumpur from Tuesday to Thursday. He was joined by representatives from the DFA, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine Ports Authority, NAMRIA, Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard.
AMF features the 10 member states of ASEAN, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam while the EAMF is composed of all ASEAN member states, plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States.