INCOMING Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said China will benefit more from a peaceful resolution of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) row through abiding by an arbitral tribunal ruling than by taking any aggressive action on the dispute.
He said the Asian giant should be reminded by all countries concerned of freedom of navigation and overflight in the contested area.
“It’s very important that the international community…will get together to make the Chinese understand that it is for their benefit to resolve the conflict in this area peacefully, that there is more for the Chinese to lose if they will take aggressive action and use force than if they will pursue the resolution of this dispute though peaceful means,” he said in an interview over the weekend.
China has maintained that it will not recognize the ruling of the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague that is expected to favor the Philippines.
The court is expected to hand down its decision early next month.
China, which claims 90 percent of the 3.5-million square kilometer West Philippine Sea, has been accused of militarizing the disputed waters by constructing airstrips and ports that can accommodate military aircraft and naval vessels.
Yasay said he expects the international community to help the Philippines in the “historic battle” since the West Philippine Sea serves as a vital maritime route where $5 trillion in ship trade passes annually.
“And even if China has said that it will not respect the decision, we would like to hope that the international community will be with us together in urging China to respect the decision and to respect the rule of law as well as because the outcome of the decision of the Unclos court is not so much only pertaining to the Philippines’ interest and to the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the disputed area, but most important, this is a matter of international concern,” he said.
Unclos is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier disclosed in a forum that the naval powers have already pledged to enforce the decision of the tribunal by conducting freedom of navigation operations to assert their right to sail in the West Philippine Sea.
Yasay said the concerned countries have the prerogative to keep peace and stability in international waters where they have the right to fly and sail.
“America has the prerogative and has the right to get into the area, through its naval and military force, to make sure that its national interests [are protected],” he noted.
“Who can prevent them if they want to because that’s international waters?”