MANILA- China's threat of war to the Philippines over the South China Sea dispute shows that Beijing does not intend to respect the rule of law unless it benefits from it, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Saturday.
In a statement, Del Rosario said China's warning recently issued to President Rodrigo Duterte contradicted the Philippines' adherence to the arbitral ruling over the disputed waters.
"Contrary to our position that right is might, China has strongly declared that it is might that will trump what is right. And finally that China- unless it stands to benefit- does not intend to respect the rule of law," Del Rosario said.
The July 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling had invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over nearly all of the resource-rich waters, favoring the Philippines' plea to halt Chinese incursions into its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
China has shunned the ruling, and has instead stepped up militarization and island-building activities in the area.
The Philippines initiated the legal case in 2013, when Del Rosario was still the country's top diplomat.
On Friday, Duterte said Beijing warned his administration of war if Manila would insist on its ownership of areas in the disputed South China Sea.
Duterte said the warning was issued after he expressed the Philippines' intent to drill oil in the resource-rich waters.
The President said he asserted to Chinese President Xi Jinping the Philippines' right to its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines' EEZ in the South China Sea.
Duterte, who has been pursuing warmer ties with Beijing despite the unresolved disputes, held bilateral talks with Xi on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in China last week.
“Sinabi ko talaga harap-harapan, that is ours and we intend to drill oil there. My view is I can drill the oil. Ang sagot sa akin, ‘Well we are friends. We don’t want to quarrel with you. We want to maintain warm relationship, but if you force the issue we will go to war.’ Ano pa bang sabihin ko?” Duterte said.