TAIWAN will never accept the upcoming ruling of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) if it won’t visit the disputed Itu Aba or Taiping Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“Any aspect of the award that undermines ROC sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and affects ROC maritime entitlements will not be binding on the ROC,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mofa), in Taipei, said.
It issued the statement over the PCA’s failure to respond to Taipei’s earlier invitation for it to visit Itu Aba, as the Philippines officially rejected the call.
Noting that “seeing is believing,” Taiwan wanted the five PCA arbitrators and Philippine representatives to personally obtain accurate information about Itu Aba amid Manila’s claim that the territory is a “rock,” not an “island.”
Mofa insisted that Itu Aba has fresh water that can grow crops and raise livestock, thus it can sustain human habitation and has an economic life of its own—enough to meet the criteria for an island as defined in Article 121 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
In an alleged effort to downgrade the legal status of Itu Aba, the Philippines earlier argued before the PCA that it was a rock, and that China should not have any maritime entitlements beyond 12 nautical miles of territorial sea.
Mofa also noted that the Philippine legal team has reportedly urged the tribunal to disregard evidence provided by Taiwan as it is not a party to the arbitration, and repeated its challenge to the legal status of Itu Aba as an island under Unclos.
“The so-called experts hired by the Philippines have employed subjective standards that are excessively stringent or not internationally recognized, so as to downplay the quality of freshwater and natural soil on Taiping Island. …” it said.
The ministry said Taiwan has been actively doing responsive measures to assert the legal status of Itu Aba as an island, including Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s visit in the area in January that was criticized as being “unhelpful” in resolving the tension in the region.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has yet to air its side on the matter pending consultations with concerned officials. MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO