China firmly rejects the Philippines’ proposal to bring the Scarborough Shoal dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos), but the Philippines is not giving up.
The Philippine proposal is verbal, but Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday said the Philippines would send a formal invitation to China.
Del Rosario said Manila “would like to find a way to settle the impasse [with Beijing]” but at the same time uphold the Philippines’ “sovereignty and sovereign rights” over the shoal, located 124 nautical miles (223 kilometers) west of Zambales province.
Del Rosario maintains that Itlos is the right body to ascertain which country, the Philippines or China, has sovereign rights over the shoal.
Located in Hamburg, Germany, Itlos is an independent judicial body established in 1982 by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as a mediator in disputes arising from interpretations and applications of the UN convention.
Zhang Hua, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Manila, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday that China’s decision not to bring the conflict to Itlos for arbitration is final.
Zhang insisted that the shoal, which Beijing calls Huangyan Island, “is China’s inherent territory on which we have sufficient legal basis.”
The Philippines, on the other hand, refers to the shoal as Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag Shoal, and insists it belongs to the country.
In a text message, Zhang said Manila should “fully respect China’ sovereignty.”
He said the Philippine government must “commit to the consensus we reached on settling the incident through friendly diplomatic consultations, and not to complicate or aggravate this incident so that peace and stability in that area can be reached.”
Lines remain open
Raul Hernandez, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson, told reporters on Tuesday that “hopefully, the impasse would be resolved as quickly as possible with discussions with the Chinese side.”
“We continue to invite them in order to have a durable solution not only to the Scarborough Shoal issue but also to the Spratlys dispute in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
If the Chinese side insisted on not going to Itlos, he said, “we are prepared to do it alone.”
According to Hernandez, “our lines are open to Chinese representatives. But no meetings have been scheduled yet.”
Last week, the DFA said, talks between the two sides ended in a stalemate.