The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday asked China not to divert from the “core issue” of its excessive nine-dash line claim in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) after its foreign minister plotted three ways to solve the dispute.
Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a press briefing that “it behooves China to address” the issue of their excessive nine-dash line claim.
“On the disputes in the West Philippine Sea, we once again redirect China to the core issue which is its claim of indisputable sovereignty on nearly all West Philippine Sea under its nine-dash line position,”
“The Philippines has asserted before the arbitral tribunal, to which China has been invited but has refused to participate, that the nine-dash line claim is expansive, excessive and in gross violation of international law, specifically Unclos [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea],” he added.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during the meeting with Surukiat Sathirathai, chairman of Asia Peace Reconciliation Council and former Thai deputy prime minister, proposed three ways to solve the disputes.
The proposed three ways are: to continue bilateral negotiations and consultations between the parties concerned, to implement the 2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct signed between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and work for a more binding Code of Conduct and to mull the possibility of jointly exploring the contested waters.
China, Wang said, advocates the peaceful settlement of the disputes based on historical facts and international law.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario expressed his hopes for Asean and China to go to the negotiating table regarding the COC, as opposed to the consultative meeting that will be held in Beijing in September.
Del Rosario added it remains to be seen if Beijing is sincere in starting the consultations for the drafting of the COC, which is seen to stabilize the maritime tensions, the biggest potential military flashpoint in the region.
Territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea has been long-standing, but tensions rose last year when Chinese ships intruded into the Philippines-claimed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Beijing’s aggressive stance in the resource-rich region was boosted by its massive economic growth in the past decade.
The two-month naval standoff at the Panatag Shoal last year triggered diplomatic spats between Manila and Beijing, with the Philippines eventually bringing the dispute before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos) earlier this year.
And although China rejected to join the arbitration procedures, the Philippines maintained the case can proceed without Beijing’s participation. The five-member arbitral tribunal has recently convened, delegated The Hague as the seat of the arbitration and is subject to come up with its decision regarding their jurisdiction on the case.