PHL tells China: Arbitration a peaceful, enduring solution to sea row

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, Nov. 11 (PNA) — The Philippines on Wednesday said it is determined to see through the conclusion of its arbitration case that seeks to invalidate China’s huge sea claim amid Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s accusation that Manila’s legal challenge has strained ties between the two countries.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose maintained that arbitration, “a universally-recognized dispute settlement mechanism,” is “a peaceful and enduring solution” to the overlapping claims in the South China Sea — a resource-rich body of water also being claimed in parts or in whole by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

“We are determined to pursue the arbitration case to its logical conclusion,” Jose said in a statement.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, which has jurisdiction over Manila’s case, will begin its hearing on the merits of the Philippine complaint on Nov. 24 and will conclude it on Nov. 30.

In its case, Manila seeks to declare as illegal China’s so-called nine-dash line claim — a U-shaped enclosure that puts almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, under its territory.

Jose maintained China’s nine-dash line claim is “expansive, excessive and has no basis under international law,” including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which allows coastal states to explore, exploit and manage areas within its 200-nautical mile EEZ.

“If left unchallenged, we could lose about 80 percent of our exclusive economic zone,” Jose warned.

Speaking to Manila-based Chinese journalist, Wang, hours after his bilateral meeting with counterpart Albert del Rosario and a courtesy call to President Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacanang on Tuesday, called on the Philippines to solve its diplomatic rift with China.

“We hope that the Philippines can make a more sensible choice,” he said.

Tensions flared after China beefed up its reclamation activities in disputed areas and transformed seven previously submerged features into artificial islands with buildings several stories high with at least two runways.

Several countries, including the US and Japan, have raised concerns on China’s rapid island-building.

“China’s unilateral, aggressive and provocative actions to assert her claims in South China Sea affect our ability to exercise our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our maritime entitlements,” Jose said. “To address these, we have resorted to arbitration.” (PNA)