MANILA – Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Monday lashed back at his Chinese counterpart for issuing “negative statements” against the Philippines and asked China to respect the upcoming decision of an international tribunal on the South China Sea conflicts to prove that Beijing does not consider itself “above the law.”
In his official visit to Washington last week for a meeting with US Secretary John Kerry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the Philippines of “political provocation” when it sought arbitration to resolve their two countries’ maritime disputes in the resource-rich waters.
Wang branded Manila’s legal action “irresponsible” as it accused the Philippine government of shutting its doors on one and one negotiations with China to try to resolve the conflicts.
“We note that Foreign Minister Wang said that China is a member of the international community and that it abides by international law. We have had countless meetings with China to try to address the issue between the two of us to no avail. We have invited China many times to join us in arbitration as early as 2012, again to no avail,” Del Rosario said.
The Philippines initiated an arbitration case against Beijing in March 2013 to nullify China’s massive claim, which is represented by nine dashes that resembles a tongue-shaped encirclement of nearly the entire South China Sea, including areas that are within Manila’s territory.
Within this enclosure, China has rapidly undertaken enormous reclamation activities in seven disputed reefs, which has alarmed several countries like the United States, Australia, Japan and the Group of 7 nations.
China has refused to participate in the proceedings and said it will not honor the final ruling by the Netherlands-based tribunal which is expected on or before May this year.
“As we presume to be responsible states, the Philippines, as well as the international community, are asking China to respect the forthcoming ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal and together advance an international rules-based regime,” said Del Rosario. “If China does not heed our collective call, does it mean that China considers itself above the law?”
Analysts believe the reclamation will allow China to project military power in Asia’s maritime heartland and cement their claims in the resource-rich waters.
The Philippines said China’s actions raises the level of tensions in the region and is threatening freedom of navigation in the waters where a bulk of the world’s trade passes through.
China has defended its building spree, saying the reclamation are within its sovereign rights while admitting that the facilities it constructed would both have civilian and military functions.
This month, China was reported to have installed surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Woody Island in a part of the South China Sea, called the Paracels, and is jointly claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.