MANILA, Philippines – The top foreign affairs official of the United States (US) had expressed his support for the Philippine position to solve its sea disputes with China under international law, as he noted that the Philippines and the US would continue to boost ties, particularly in security in defense.
In a statement Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that newly installed Secretary of State John Kerry made a phone call to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario Wednesday night, during which they talked about “forging stronger and deeper relations” between the Philippines and the US.
Del Rosario, in the statement, noted that he conveyed to his foreign counterpart the Philippine initiative to bring the territorial disputes before an arbitral tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), and that Kerry “gave his support for the efforts of the Philippines to resolve the conflicting claims through the rule of law.”
“I emphasized the importance of this initiative to the future stability of our region in particular and to the future efficacy of international law in general,” Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario also emphasized that Kerry was fully supportive of Unclos and was one of its strongest advocates in the US Senate.
“Secretary Kerry was a moving force behind a Senate resolution on the peaceful settlement of disputes in the West Philippine Sea,” Del Rosario said.
The Philippines is one of several South East Asian nations locked in territorial disputes with China over seas and atolls in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Invoking the Unclos, the Philippines haled China to the UN arbitral tribunal in hopes of compelling Beijing to respect Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf encompassing territories in the West Philippine Sea.
China, however, had maintained that it has indisputable sovereignty over the area and that talks should only be on a bilateral basis with the countries directly involved.
Del Rosario also noted that much of the discussion focused on a “wide range of key, strategic initiatives, particularly in the area of security and defense,” and that they agreed to further cooperate to “help build the capacity of the Philippines to defend its territory and people.”
“We exchanged views on the implementation of our agreed policy of increased rotational presence, enhanced exercises and capacity building,” Del Rosario said, adding that cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief were also important parts of this agreed policy.
Del Rosario added that they had agreed to work together to build stronger Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) – US relations.
“We agreed that one area for this is the US initiative to train Asean seafarers and that the Philippines, given its recognized accomplishments in enhancing the skills of seafarers, can take the lead on this,” he said.
Del Rosario also detailed how Kerry emphasized “his personal closeness to the Philippines and his determination to further enhancing bilateral relations,” as he noted that Kerry was part of the election monitoring team in the country headed by US Senator Richard Lugar in 1986.
“Since then he has always had a keen interest in our country and our democracy,” Del Rosario said.
He added that Kerry also expressed his regard for the leadership of President Benigno Aquino III and his policies on good governance, economic policies, peace initiatives, and the fight against corruption.