The Philippines respects China’s rise as a global superpower, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said, but asked Asia’s economic tiger to treat all nations, particularly the Philippines, with respect to their sovereignty.
The Foreign Affairs secretary delivered a speech before the 2nd Annual Dinner of the US-Philippines Society at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday (September 27). A copy of the speech was provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“We [the Philippines]acknowledge China’s role in world affairs and support its peaceful rise. As China becomes stronger and more powerful, it is our hope that China will become a more responsible state and a positive force in the region,” del Rosario said.
“[But] to be viewed as a responsible state, China must adhere to and respect the rule of law,” he added.
The former Philippine envoy to Washington said this amid the arbitration case it filed against Beijing in January of this year regarding China’s “excessive” nine-dash line position in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Ancient Chinese maps showed nine dashes that cover islands and waters of Beijing’s current neighbors, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam.
The expansive claim has allowed China to poach into the Philippines’ territorial waters, particularly the Scarborough Shoal in April last year, which triggered a two-month naval standoff between the two countries’ navy.
The continuous intrusion into Philippine-claimed territories, particularly the Kalayaan Island Group, even after the end of the standoff pushed the Philippines in pursuing an arbitration case against China which it filed before the United Nations-backed International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos).
Del Rosario said that in many instances, the Philippines has tried to peacefully engage China to settle the disputes in the region.
“However, these were unsuccessful. The Philippines had exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China. Our last resort was to utilize the legal track towards the resolution of disputes.”
The secretary added the three benefits of the arbitration case filed by Manila—one, it will allow China to clearly define its maritime entitlements; two, the Philippines will be able to clarify what it theirs, its fishing rights and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ); and three, the maritime entitlements of the two countries will provide a peaceful and stable region that the international community has been seeking for.
To make these possible, a rules-based approach that will allow a third-party arbitration and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are needed, del Rosario said.
Earlier, the five-member arbitral tribunal established The Hague as the seat of the arbitration. The Philippines will be submitting its memorial to the tribunal in March 2014. It will address issues such as the jurisdiction of the tribunal and the merits of the case.
As for the COC, the Asean and China met in September in Beijing to talk about the early resolution of the COC, which although won’t include a dispute settlement mechanism will have provisions for reducing tensions in the region and preventing claimant-countries from pursuing their claims aggressively.
Asean is composed of the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam.
But even amid the tensions between the two countries, “the Philippines endeavors to maintain a positive, peaceful and stable relationship with China,” del Rosario said.
“I wish to stress that the Philippines is committed to undertake all that is possible to cultivate constructive relations with China in spite of these issues in the West Philippine Sea. We maintain that our disputes in the West Philippine Sea are not the sum total of our relations,” he added.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd, according to the secretary, is “firm in his conviction” to uphold his agreement with former Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2011 not to let the maritime disputes affect the “friendship and cooperation” between the two countries. BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON