The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), on Monday welcomed the Declaration adopted by the European Union (EU) on recent developments in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The Declaration, issued by the union’s High Representative on March 11, highlights the need to ensure “maritime safety, security and cooperation, freedom of navigation and overflight.”
China claims almost the whole of the West Philippine Sea, which is believed to have large deposits of oil and gas.
The Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the strategic waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped annually.
The EU urges all claimants “to resolve disputes through peaceful means, to clarify the basis of their claims and to pursue them in accordance with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos] and its arbitration procedures.”
“The Philippines has long advocated a peaceful, rules-based resolution to the disputes in the South Chi- na Sea,” the DFA said in a statement.
It added, “It is important for all concerned parties to abide by the legally-binding ruling of the tribunal and use the ruling as the basis for future discussions and cooperation.”
The Philippines filed a memorial against China’s claims before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, The Netherlands, in 2013.
A ruling on the case is set to be released later this year.
The DFA said the country fully shares the EU’s concerns about the deployment of missiles and other military assets in the disputed waters.
It also supports the EU’s call for all claimants to refrain from militarization of the region and from the threat or use of force.
“This underscores the critical importance of ensuring the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, as well as the urgent need for parties to urgently conclude negotiations on the Code of Conduct.
“The Philippines supports the EU’s continued engagement in the region through the Asean-led processes and welcomes its offer to share best practices on maritime security,” the DFA said.