Del Rosario sounds alarm vs China’s ‘dangerous, reckless, forceful activities’
MANILA, Philippines—Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario sounded the alarm before the United Nations (UN) general assembly Tuesday against China’s “dangerous, reckless and forceful activities” in the South China Sea.
“We have invited a State Party to settle our maritime disputes peacefully through Unclos (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) including its provisions on dispute settlement, specifically arbitration,” del Rosario said referring to China.
“However, it has refused to join us and has continued to unilaterally embark on an expansionist claim that violates the legitimate rights of the Philippines. Instead of peacefully resolving the maritime disputes [under Unclos], said State embarked on a series of dangerous, reckless and forceful activities in an attempt to impose unilateral change in the maritime status quo of the South China Sea,” he said.
Philippines and China are locked in a maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea, which China claims in its entirety, including parts of the Philippines 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone through the nine-dash line claim.
Philippine has challenged China’s nine-dash line claim before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos). China however refuses to participate citing it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea based on “historical facts.”
Chinese Maritime Surveillance (CMS) vessels have maintained control over the South China Sea since the Scarborough Shoal stand in 2012. The region is believed to be rich in resources particularly oil and natural gas.
Filipino fishermen have reportedly been kept out of fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea by CMS vessels by force even to the extent of using water cannons.
“These unilateral activities escalated tensions and threatened the peace and stability of the South China Sea. In 2012, after forcibly occupying the tiny rocks of Scarborough shoal, said state refused to abide by a mutual agreement to deescalate tensions by not withdrawing its vessels from said rocks,” del Rosario said.
“Earlier this year, said state imposed a unilateral moratorium on fishing in some areas of the South China Sea which infringes on the legitimate sovereign rights of the Philippines and other coastal states to their EEZ,” he said.
Del Rosario also raised the issue of China’s massive land reclamation activities in several reefs in the South China Sea that are believed to be a precursor to the construction of military bases.
“These unilateral activities, among others, form part of a pattern of forcing a change in the maritime status quo in order to advance a so-called nine-dash line position and expansive claim of indisputable sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea,” del Rosario said.
At least four reefs are being reclaimed by China in the Spratly Group of Islands: Johnson Reef, McKennan and Hughes reef, Cuarteron Reef and Gavin Reef.
Del Rosario referred to the proposed “Triple Action Plan” which he raised before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as a way to deescalate the tensions in the region.
It involves a three-pronged approach that includes a freeze on all activities in the South China Sea, the exercise of self-restraint among all countries involved in disputes, and the final conclusive resolution of disputes through arbitration.
“The Philippines is more determined than ever in its pursuit of all possible means under international law to keep the conflict from escalating and undermining regional peace, security, and stability,” del Rosario said.
“We enjoin all to be united in addressing the challenge of resolving this issue in accordance with the rule of law,” he said.
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