Can’t force China to comply–Palace
MANILA, Philippines—Even if a United Nations arbitration tribunal were to rule in its favor on the West Philippine Sea dispute, the Philippines cannot compel China to comply with the ruling, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the country’s main purpose in filing the case is to prove that its claim to certain territories in the South China Sea is sanctioned by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), and not to enforce compliance from China.
“The primary objective is to prove that what we claim as part of the West Philippine Sea is based on a prevailing law, and that law is the Unclos,” Coloma said in the briefing.
“The primary objective is not to make a country comply,” he said.
“It’s not within our power to dictate what they (China) should do. What’s within our power is to protect our national interest,” Coloma told a Palace briefing.
Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza earlier said that the Philippines has always believed that China, as a member of the international community of nations, was “legally bound” to accept and implement the ruling of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos).
The Philippines’ filing of the case drew a sharp rebuke from Chinese officials, which accused the Philippines of seriously damaging the two countries’ relations and shutting the door to negotiations.
Beijing, which claims virtually the entire West Philippine Sea, has refused to take part in the arbitration and has reiterated its position that the dispute should be settled through direct negotiations.
Coloma said, however, that any Itlos ruling favorable to the Philippines would boost the case of countries with “maritime entitlements” under the Unclos.
“If there will be a ruling, not only the Philippines but other countries with maritime entitlements under Unclos will have a stronger basis,” he said.
The Philippines brought its case before the UN in early 2013 after China took control of a disputed shoal off northwestern Philippines. It asked the tribunal to declare China’s claims to about 80 percent of the South China Sea illegal. It also identified eight shoals and reefs—Mischief Reef, McKennan Reef, Subi Reef, Gaven Reef, Scarborough Shoal, Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Fiery Cross Reef—that form part of the Philippine territory that China has allegedly illegally occupied.
That number increased to nine after a Chinese Coast Guard ship last month twice tried to block a Philippine civilian ship from proceeding to the Ayungin Shoal to resupply and replace a Philippine detachment stationed on a marooned Navy ship in the disputed shoal.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday welcomed the United States’ latest expression of its commitment to defend the Philippines amid the tensions with China.
“The Philippines welcomes the recent reported comments made in Beijing by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as an expression of support and resolve for a regional ally,” said Del Rosario in a statement.
“The United States and the Philippine-US alliance play an important role in the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. This benefits all countries in enhancing our long-term peace and development,” he said.
While on a visit to China on Tuesday, Hagel said the US was “fully committed” to fulfilling its treaty obligations with the Philippines and Japan.
The US has mutual defense treaties with the two Asian countries which have recently been at odds with China.—With Tarra Quismundo
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