MANILA, Philippines—A visiting lawmaker from the United States has lauded the Philippines’ “restraint” in dealing with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) issue and he hoped the Chinese side would “understand the need” to settle the long-drawn-out territorial dispute soon.
US Rep. Jeff Miller, who leads a five-member delegation of US lawmakers on a three-day visit here, also reiterated his government’s support for a peaceful resolution of the dispute, an issue of keen interest to the US amid its defense pivot to the Asia Pacific.
“We appreciate the restraint that the government here has shown in going through the arbitration process. I’m hopeful that China will be able to understand the need to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” Miller told the Inquirer while visiting the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario had briefed the delegation—Miller and fellow US Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Timothy Walz, Michael Michaud and Josiah Bonner—on the West Philippine Sea issue during the group’s courtesy call at the Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.
During the meeting, the Philippine side explained the country’s move to hale China to the United Nations arbitration tribunal in a bid to invalidate the Chinese side’s “nine-dash line” claim over territories in the contested region of the South China Sea, including a portion the Philippines refers to as the West Philippine Sea.
The legal action, formally rejected by China on Tuesday, is also aimed at stopping Chinese incursions into Philippine territorial waters as defined under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Philippines has said the compulsory process will continue even without China’s participation, hopeful that the latter will respect the result of the arbitration as a “responsible country.” China has said it preferred to discuss the issue with the Philippines bilaterally.