THE Philippines on Monday said China should respect whatever decision the Arbitral Tribunal will come up with in connection with the complaint filed by Manila questioning Beijing’s claim on almost the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“As we presume to be responsible states, the Philippines, as well as the international community, are asking China to respect the forthcoming ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal and together advance an international rules-based regime. If China does not heed our collective call, does it mean that China considers itself above the law?” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
He issued the statement in response to the “negative statement” of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who accused Manila of “political provocation” in seeking international arbitration over its claims in the West Philippine Sea.
Wang, who recently spoke before the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, DC, criticized Philippine leaders for lodging a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
He described the move as “irresponsible to the Filipino people and the future of the Philippines.”
But del Rosario said China shunned efforts to resolve the issue.
“We have had countless meetings with China to try to address the issue between the two of us to no avail. We have invited China many times to join us in arbitration as early as 2012, again to no avail,” he stressed.
The Philippines filed a case in 2013 after China refused to withdraw its ships from a disputed shoal. It argued that China’s claims in the waters do not conform with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and should be declared invalid.
China has boycotted the proceedings. In October last year, the tribunal said it has jurisdiction to hear the case.
Daniel Kritenbrink, senior director for Asian affairs at the US National Security Council, also urged China to respect an international court’s decision due later this year on Manila’s dispute with Beijing over territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Kritenbrink said he expected the upcoming ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration to be “extremely important” because it will mark the outcome of a process that allows countries to use peaceful legal means to pursue disputes.
China does not recognize The Hague-based court’s authority, but it has ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea at the center of the case.
“When that ruling comes out, it will be binding on both parties,” Kritenbrink said.
“That will be an important moment that all of us in the region should focus on.”