MANILA — The Philippines on Thursday said it will honor the decision of the arbitral tribunal, which is hearing the case it filed against China over its sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea, whether the result is favorable or not.
“I think in terms of the resulting award, win or lose we will accept the award. We expect at the very least for China to do the same,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a meeting with journalists.
Manila’s arbitration case filed in January 2013 has angered China, causing another setback to both Asian neighbors’ already fragile ties marred by years of bitter territorial rifts. China has declared several times that it will not join the proceedings, dismissing the Philippine case as “baseless.”
China’s aggressive actions and non-stop incursions in its territories in the South China Sea has worried the Philippines, prompting it to seek legal recourse to denigrate the Asian giant’s vast claim over the waters teeming with rich marine life, minerals and gas and oil deposits.
According to Del Rosario, arbitration process is expected to proceed as scheduled and a ruling might be handed down as early as next year.
“The way it has been estimated for us, by March we should be submitting our responses to the queries that were handed down by the arbitral tribunal and China has until June to respond to our responses,” he said, adding that oral arguments will take place for two weeks in July before a final decision is awarded in about six months or early 2016.
Despite the legal action against China, Del Rosario said the Philippines is committed to restoring ties with Beijing.“We’re trying to see if a constructive engagement can be had at this time, one that is mutually beneficial…an abstraction of contentious issues to be treated separately, to move forward with major bilateral agenda, with both of us taking the position the South China Sea issue is not the sum total of our relations,” he said.