MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has asserted anew that abiding by the rules set by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) is the legitimate way of resolving conflicting and overlapping claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Del Rosario reiterated this in Manila Tuesday while a conference at Montego Bay, Jamaica, was being held to mark the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Unclos by 159 UN member-states, including the Philippines.
On May 8, 1984, the country became the 11th state to ratify the international agreement, which entered into force on Nov. 16, 1994.
In a statement issued in Manila, Del Rosario said Unclos “has never been more important to the Philippines than today when overlapping maritime claims threaten as never before the peace and prosperity in our part of the world.”
“The Philippines believes that the rules-based approach in Unclos, together with the norms in the UN Charter and international law, are the way forward in addressing in a just, peaceful and lasting manner the maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
The DFA chief noted that Unclos is the “international law governing the rights and responsibilities of nations—big, as well as small, rich or poor, coastal and landlocked—in their use of the world’s oceans.”
“It enshrines the norms that determine the rights of states over maritime areas and contains important mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes on matters relating to the oceans,” he emphasized.
According to Del Rosario, “together with our commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Unclos this year, we are also commemorating this year the 30th anniversary of the UN Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1982.”
“This is another historic and important document, particularly at this time when the Philippines is exerting every effort to address and resolve conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
For over four weeks now, Manila and Beijing have been engaged in a standoff over the Scarborough Shoal, located some 220 kilometers west of Zambales province.
The Philippines calls the shoal Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag Shoal while China refers to the rock formation as Huangyan Island.
Del Rosario pointed out that Chinese ships were “currently engaged in illegal activities in Bajo de Masinloc.”