Amid China’s new fishing regulations in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea), the Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said that the Philippines will continue to advocate for the peaceful resolution of the decades-old conflict before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
“The [Philippines] continues to advocate for a peaceful and rules-based settlement of disputes in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law thru the expeditious arbitration of maritime disputes under Unclos,” Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said.
The Philippines filed a case against China on January 22 last year before the UN-backed International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos).
Beijing refused to participate in the arbitration process.
China’s new fishing rules, which require foreign vessels to seek permission before fishing or passing through the disputed waters, is the latest in a series of events that build Beijing up as a regional bully.
The “provocative” move further raised questions among the claimants of the resource-rich region regarding China’s intentions to seize the disputed waters.
An unofficial and unverified report came out over the weekend about the Chinese Navy’s plan to seize Pag-asa Island, which is officially a territory of the Philippines but is located in the contested region.
Aside from the arbitration process, Hernandez said the department is also seeking an “early conclusion” to the Code of Conduct (COC) between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Although it does not include a dispute settlement mechanism, the COC is seen as a way to regulate tensions and prevent provocative actions in the region.
Asean groups the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam.