Philippines insists on rule of law in China dispute

by Ria de Fiesta,

Posted at Mar 27 2014 12:00 AM | Updated as of Mar 27 2014 08:00 AM

MANILA – An official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said Philippines is advocating rule of law in its arbitration case against China with regard to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose told ANC Primetime that the Philippines, in pursuing a principled foreign policy based on international law, is hoping for a peaceful settlement of the dispute without resorting to force.

“In this effort to resolve the dispute, we have been following three tracks,” Jose said.

Jose said the first, which is the diplomatic track, involves working with China in trying to find a solution to the problem.

“Since the April 2012 standoff in Panatag shoal, we have had about 50 meetings with China but unsuccessful,” he said.

The second track, according to Jose, is the political track, wherein the Philippines is working closely with its Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) partners for the implementation of the 2002 Declaration of Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea, which was signed between the regional bloc and China.
The third is the legal track, Jose said, and this involves the case that the country has filed against China before the arbitration tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) comes in.

“So alongside these tracks, we are also trying to have a minimum defense posture or capability so we are trying to get the help and support of our treaty allies, and also trying to establish networks with our partners and neighbors in our region to have a stronger defense alliance,” Jose said.

According to Jose, the country has a strong case, which will be submitted before the tribunal on March 30.

“We believe we have very good arguments in our favor, because we are challenging, essentially, the maritime claim of China represented by this nine-dash line, which encompasses the whole South China Sea,” Jose said.

Jose said that the Kalayaan group of islands, Panatag shoal, and Ayungin shoal are all within the 200 nautical miles or the country’s continental shelf.

“So it’s very clear these land features are under our exclusive sovereign rights and jurisdiction so they cannot be claimed as part of another country’s territories,” he said.

Noting that the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has no enforcing power, Jose said it would be up to the international community to make China realize that if it wants to be seen as a responsible member of the international community, then it has to abide by the decision of the arbitral tribunal, whatever it may be.