PHL: UN convention deemed useless if China allowed to claim an entire sea

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, Dec. 1 (PNA) — Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has warned that a United Nations maritime law will be rendered useless if China will be allowed to own the entire South China Sea.

In his conclusion remarks at the end of week-long hearing by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands on Monday, Del Rosario said “no state, no matter how powerful, should be allowed to claim an entire sea as its own and to use force or the threat of force in asserting that claim.”

UNCLOS grants coastal states the right to explore, exploit and manage maritime resources within its waters that extends up to 200-nautical miles from its nearest landmass, an area called exclusive economic zone.

“No State should be permitted to write and re-write the rules in order to justify its expansionist agenda,” said Del Rosario. “If that is allowed, the Convention itself would be deemed useless.”

“Power will have prevailed over reason, and the rule of law would have been rendered meaningless.”

Del Rosario also pointed out China’s violation of its obligations under the United Nations, citing the UN Charter’s preamble.

“It is failing to respect the obligations arising from treaties, specifically UNCLOS,” he said, adding China’s actions interferes with the Philippines’ “sovereign duty to promote the social progress of our people, and our efforts to achieve a better standard of life for all Filipinos.”

China virtually claims the entire South China Sea, citing ancient maps and historical records to back its claim, an assertion which Philippine officials say does not hold water under modern-day international laws.

Over the course of nearly two years, China has transformed formerly submerged rock features in the waters into artificial islands, a move that has triggered serious concerns among nations led by the United States and Japan.

Beijing has denied any wrongdoing, saying its actions are within its sovereign rights as it warned states against challenging its claims.

The Philippines has accused China of harassing its fishermen and blocking oil exploration in its off-shore areas facing the South China.

“China’s unilateral actions, and the atmosphere of intimidation they have created, are also trampling upon the rights and interests of the peoples of Southeast Asia and beyond,” Del Rosario said.

“China’s massive island building campaign shows its utter disregard for the rights of other states, and for international law,” he added.

Del Rosario said China started its construction spree on at least seven contested feature a year after the Philippines initiated the arbitration.

China’s island building, he said, not only undermines regional stability, but also the rule of law.

It also inflicting massive environmental damage on the most diverse marine environment in the world.

“China has intentionally created one of the biggest emerging environmental disasters in the world,” Del Rosario told the court.

The Philippines initiated arbitration in January 2013 after China seized a Manila-claimed shoal off the country’s northwestern coast.

China did not participate in the proceedings, but the court still gave them until January 1, 2016 to comment in writing on anything said during the hearing.

A final ruling is expected in 2016. (PNA)