MANILA, Philippines–While parrying international criticism over questionable maps on its new electronic passport, China on Monday returned the favor and blasted the Philippines’ claim to the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales as a “misinterpretation” of international law stipulating territorial delineations based on exclusive economic zones.
A Chinese national daily also called President Benigno Aquino III “rude” for pushing for the internationalization of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute and rejecting contrary position of known China allies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) at the bloc’s recent summit in Phnom Penh.
In a statement sent Monday, the Chinese Embassy in Manila cited the China National Institute for South China Sea Studies’ analysis of the Philippines’ claim to the Panatag Shoal debunking Manila’s EEZ-based assertion to the resource-rich territory.
The institute reiterated China’s historical ownership of the shoal, known to the Chinese as Huangyan Island, as it disputed the Philippines’ claim that invoked the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
“Clearly, the Philippines here has misinterpreted and misapplied Unclos on the basis of its own interests, which is contrary to international law and to Unclos,” said the Chinese institute.
“It has been an established basic principle of international law that ‘the land dominates the sea.’ Coastal states derive their sovereign rights and jurisdiction over EEZs from their territorial sovereignty. Hence, Unclos cannot serve as a basis for a country to claim sovereignty over China’s Huangyan Island,” the statement further read.
Last week, the Philippines reiterated its claim to part of the Spratly Islands and the Panatag Shoal, citing an Unclos provision that prods nations to respect each other’s EEZs within 200 nautical miles of their shores.
This as China issued new electronic passports stamped with a map that declared disputed West Philippine Sea territories as part of its borders. This has infuriated claimant countries Vietnam and the Philippines, as the move forces recognition of China’s claims every time its citizen bearing the e-passport is allowed to enter both countries.
China also just announced the successful landing of a fighter jet on its aircraft carrier, a projection of its power as a growing military might amid the unresolved maritime dispute.
The Panatag Shoal, site of a standoff between Chinese and Philippine naval ships last summer, is roughly 125 nautical miles from the nearest Philippine shore in Zambales.
China, however, maintains that the territory “has always belonged to China” and that the Philippines’ claim is “to the detriment of China’s territorial sovereignty.”
“[The Philippines’ claim] is not only a misinterpretation and abuse of Unclos, but also represents a violation of the fundamental principle of the inviolability of territorial sovereignty enshrined in the UN Charter,” the statement said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said at least three Chinese ships remain at the shoal months since the Philippines pulled out ships due to inclement weather. The Philippine Coast Guard said it was ready to send back a ship to patrol around the shoal.
Aquino earlier called on China to pull out its ships from the shoal and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario criticized the continuing Chinese presence, saying it hampered the progress of talks.
Chinese national newspaper China Daily also criticized Aquino for asserting his stern stand to include other countries in discussions on the West Philippine Sea during the Cambodia summit.
Aquino had countered Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of this year’s Asean Chair Cambodia, when the latter announced that the Asean had reached a consensus not to internationalize the West Philippine Sea dispute. The disputed waters are a vital international trading route.
“[I]t was very rude of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to interrupt and rebuke Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, alleging that no such consensus had been reached and he would continue to speak out on the global stage,” said the editorial that came out Friday.
“Aquino’s undiplomatic move was ill-advised, and will not help solve the issue in peace,” said the editorial titled “A rude Manila helps no one.”
The Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam protested the supposed “consensus” saying there was no such agreement.
The editorial also criticized Manila’s invitation to fellow claimant countries Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam for four-way talks on the maritime dispute next month.