MANILA, Philippines—The United Nations has reiterated its support for a peaceful settlement of the protracted dispute between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday.
In a statement, the DFA said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “renewed the world body’s support for a peaceful and amicable resolution” of the territorial row between the two countries when the UN chief met with Philippine Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Libran Cabactulan at the UN headquarters in New York on Feb. 19.
During the meeting, Cabactulan reiterated to Ban the Philippines’ bid for arbitration as one such means to settle the dispute, a move that China has rejected asserting its historical ownership of territories in the contested waters.
“Ban assured Cabactulan that he was closely monitoring developments on the case,” the DFA said.
Amid China’s refusal to take part in the arbitration proceedings, Cabactulan told Ban that the Philippines’ plea for UN intervention in the dispute “should not be considered an unfriendly act.”
“The ambassador stressed that this has been the position of the UN General Assembly ever since 1982 when it adopted the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes,” the DFA said.
Cabactulan further explained to Ban that the arbitration case “would benefit both the Philippines and China, as well as the region and the world.”
“It will be an opportunity for China to assure the international community of its peaceful rise,” Cabactulan told Ban during the meeting.
The Philippines haled China before a UN arbitration panel a month ago in a bid to stop Chinese incursions into established Philippine maritime boundaries in the West Philippine Sea.
Seeking remedy under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the Philippines’ plea further asked the UN to declare as invalid China’s “excessive” nine-dash line claim in the waters. Both the Philippines and China ratified the Unclos.
This delineation, which China insists is based on historical boundaries, overlaps with the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
In the UN meeting, Cabactulan explained that the nine-dash line “interferes with the lawful exercise by the Philippines of its sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.”
China has continued to assert “indisputable sovereignty” over territories in the West Philippine Sea and has insisted on holding bilateral talks with the Philippines instead of submitting itself to the UN arbitral tribunal.
The Philippines said the compulsory arbitral proceedings will continue even without China, as provided under Unclos.
In Manila, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario expressed his thanks to the United States for the latter’s support to the Philippine arbitration case lodged against China.