‘Diplomacy remains the only option to resolve sea row’
The “solidarity of nations” which believe in a rules-based, diplomatic approach to solving the worsening maritime row in South China Sea would deter a military confrontation between the United States and China, Malacañang said Saturday.
As the possibility of a superpower confrontation looms following a tense radio exchange between a US spy plane and the Chinese Navy in the Spratlys on Wednesday, a diplomatic approach remains the only option for resolving the dispute, said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.
“What is essential is to maintain maritime domain awareness, or the capability to monitor or track relevant developments. This poses a major challenge considering the vast area involved, but we remain steadfast in pursuing a rules based, diplomatic approach to conflict resolution,” he said in a text message.
Adherence to international laws is the “principled approach” to resolving the tensions at sea, and one that would encourage support from the global community, he said.
“We believe that the solidarity of nations that believe in this principled approach will serve as an effective deterrent,” Coloma added.
The United States has said it would continue its air and sea patrols in international waters despite China’s displeasure that a US surveillance aircraft had flown over areas of the South China Sea that Beijing has been busily reclaiming. The Chinese Navy tried to make a US P-8 Poseidon leave the area eight times, telling it to “go away.”
The Philippines raised the alarm over China’s construction of man-made islands over the disputed reefs and shoals at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Kuala Lumpur last month.
Asean said China’s reclamation activities “may undermine peace, security and stability” in the South China Sea. The 10-member nation regional bloc, however, stopped short of asking China to stop building new islands.
Among the Asean member states, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Vietnam are laying claim over some of the reefs and shoals in the South China Sea which China claims in their entirety.
The Philippines has occupied nine territories in the Spratlys, known as the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG): Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal; Pag-asa (Thitu) Island; Lawak (Nanshan) Island; Parola Island (Northeast Cay); Patag (Flat) Island; Kota (Loaita) Island; Rizal (Commodore) Reef; Likas (West York) Island, and Panata Island (Lankiam Cay).
It also insists jurisdiction over other reefs and shoals that China has taken over such as the Panganiban (Mischief), Mabini (Johnson South), Gavin (Gaven), Calderon (Cuarteron), Hughes (Kennan), Malvar
(Eldad) and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs.
The Philippines has also named the waters within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.
The government also filed a case against China before a United Nations arbitral tribunal, challenging China’s so-called “nine-dash line claim” that practically covers 90 percent of the South China Sea, including parts of the Philippines exclusive economic zone.
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