MANILA, Philippines—China has rejected the Philippines’ proposal to bring their dispute over the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos), based in Hamburg, Germany.
The Chinese foreign ministry said on Sunday that Beijing had turned down Manila’s call for international mediation to resolve the maritime dispute.
Earlier, Zhang Hua, spokesman of the Chinese Embassy in Manila, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that Beijing’s decision not to bring the conflict to Itlos was final.
Zhang insisted that the shoal, which China calls Huangyan Island, “is China’s inherent territory on which we have sufficient legal basis.”
The Philippines, on the other hand, refers to the Scarborough 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’s sovereignty.”
He said the Philippine government must “commit to the consensus we reached on setting 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.”
Position relayed to PH Embassy
Deng Zhonghua, head of the Chinese foreign ministry’s boundary and ocean affairs office, relayed to the Philippine Embassy in the Chinese capital its position on the issue.
In a statement posted on its website, the ministry said China “demands that the Philippines respect the sovereignty of Chinese territory and does nothing more to aggravate or complicate the situation further.”
It asserted that “Scarborough Shoal is an integrative part of Chinese territory,” adding the Philippine government’s proposal to bring the issue to Itlos “contravenes the fundamental principles of international relations and also inflicts serious damage on the current international order.”
China claims the entire South China Sea is part of its territory, even waters close to the Philippines, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries.
On Thursday, Manila formally asked China to respect its sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal, as well as its sovereign rights under international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
In a note verbale to the Chinese Embassy in Makati City, the Department of Foreign Affairs also formally invited Beijing to join Manila in bringing the Scarborough Shoal dispute to Itlos.
In a statement, the DFA said “this approach would resolve on a long-term basis any differences of position on the issue and ensure a peaceful, stable and lasting bilateral relationship between the Philippines and China.”
The foreign office strongly believes Itlos is the “appropriate third-party adjudication body under international law, specifically the Unclos, with respect to the rights and obligations of the two countries in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.”
Going to Itlos alone
Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesperson, had told reporters that “hopefully, the impasse would be resolved as quickly as possible with discussions with the Chinese side.”
If the Chinese side insisted on not going to Itlos, he said the Philippines has “prepared to do it alone.”
Last week, talks between the two sides ended in a stalemate, according to the DFA.
Monday’s note verbale was the second one presented this week by the DFA to the Chinese side.
Last Wednesday, DFA Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs Ma. Theresa Lazaro handed over a note verbale to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing during a meeting at the agency headquarters in Pasay City.
The foreign office “noted with concern the Chinese statement that they have become more assertive because the Philippines allegedly broke an agreement on the pullout of the (Philippine and Chinese) ships and fishing boats (from the shoal).”
It pointed out “there has never been an agreement reached.”
“The DFA is of the view that it was unfortunate that the Chinese response was based on inaccurate appreciation of the facts and dynamics of the negotiations,” it said.
In the same note verbale, the DFA “took the opportunity to inform the Chinese Embassy that in order to address the impasse and to avoid future misunderstandings, the dialogue between the two governments must be based on complete trust and the confidence that information to be conveyed to the capitals must be an accurate rendition of facts.”
The foreign office also said it “believes that responsibility for resolving the issue rests not just with one party but with both parties.”