MANILA, Philippines—Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has assailed China for purportedly undermining the rule of law for insisting its territorial claims over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“I think that we’ve taken the position that China’s claim for undisputable sovereignty in the South China Sea is an excessive claim and it’s a violation of international law,” Del Rosario argued.
He said the Philippines was looking forward to international arbitration to settle the ownership claims of both countries in the disputed group of islands.
“I think it’s proceeding. I think that the judges have already been named and I think we’re working towards a completion of the five judges in the arbitral tribunal. And so once that’s done, I think the situation or the case will proceed as planned,” he said.
While the Philippines had started investing in its defense system “at levels never seen before,” Del Rosario said conducting war games with the Americans would greatly help Filipino troops in improving their capabilities in responding to armed threats and natural disasters.
“This year’s Balikatan comes at a crucial time for my country and my region,” Del Rosario said, noting that the “excessive and exaggerated maritime and territorial claims” in the region “have not only created uncertainty, but have undermined the rule of law.”
“Regional peace and stability had been placed at serious risk. For my country, we need to secure our borders and protect our territorial integrity more vigorously than we have before,” he said.
While US and Philippine military officials insisted that the war games had nothing to do with the situation in the Korean region, Del Rosario said Balikatan was significant “in building my country’s own capacity to defend itself.”
“I’m glad to note that there are exercises that help prepare our two nations for the increased rotational presence of US forces in approved areas in the Philippines. This will be crucial in our efforts in the short time to establish our minimum credible defense posture and in the long term, to build a more robust national defense structure,” he said.