Visiting United States lawmakers are “very supportive” of the Philippine move elevating to a United Nations arbitration tribunal its bid to invalidate China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and to stop Chinese incursions into Philippine-claimed parts of the disputed waters, a foreign official said Tuesday.
Foreign Assistant Secretary for American Affairs Carlos Sorreta said members of the US Congress led by foreign affairs committee chair Ed Royce were “very interested” in Manila’s legal action invoking the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) against Beijing in hopes of peacefully settling the protracted maritime dispute.
“Members of the US Congress expressed their very strong support for our efforts to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner and in accordance with Unclos,” Sorreta told reporters Tuesday.
“There was some discussion on the details of our action. They were very interested in the merits of our arguments, they’re very supportive of it,” said Sorreta.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario briefed the US side on the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim filed against China last week.
“What the US has always maintained is that they don’t take sides in any dispute but they would like to see these disputes resolved peacefully,” said Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, who was present at the briefing.
US Representatives Eliot Engel, Gregory Meeks, Vern Buchanan, Matthew James Salmon Thomas, Anthony Marino were part of the delegation that met with Philippine officials, including Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Energy Secretary Carlos Petilla and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. was also present at the hour-long meeting at the DFA Tuesday morning.
For his part, Royce said Washington was taking no sides in the territorial conflict but backs up an internationally accepted diplomatic solution.
“It is best that China join the process so that we can move forward under international law,” the California Republican told The Associated Press after meeting with Del Rosario and other diplomats in Manila.
“We want to calm the tensions,” Royce said. “We want this approached from the standpoint of diplomacy, and that is what we are conveying because in that way we don’t create a crisis which roils the markets or creates uncertainty.”
Royce and the US delegation will meet with President Aquino and other Philippine officials before traveling to Beijing on Wednesday as part of their Asian tour.
China, the Philippines and four other countries have overlapping claims across the vast South China Sea. Beijing insists it has sovereignty over virtually all of the region, which is said to be rich in oil and gas and is home to some of the world’s busiest sea lanes. With an AP report