China hits back: Phl 'broke commitment', 'aggravated' dispute

Camille Diola - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The territorial dispute in the South China Sea has been "aggravated" by the Philippines, a Chinese foreign ministry official said late Tuesday.

"It is regrettable that over recent years, the Philippines has changed its attitude and approach in handling the issue, went back on its consensus with China, broke its commitment in the DOC (Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea), cast aside the framework of dialogue upheld by a majority of countries, aggravated the situation," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement.

Hua's statement was in response to the statement of Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez where the Philippines stated facts that prove it had exhausted all political and diplomatic means to resolve the territorial dispute peacefully.

She said that talks and cooperation between the two countries on the rival territorial claims have been "sound" and they nearly reached a consensus. She also said both even agreed to a joint marine seismic operation on certain areas of the disputed sea.

But the Philippines gave up on the positive developments in the negotiations and harassed Chinese fishermen off Scarborough Shoal through a military threat in 2012, Hua said.

"(The Philippines) set off the incident of the Huangyan Island by harassing Chinese civilians with warships, casting a shadow over China-Philippine relations and peace and stability of the South China Sea," the spokesperson claimed.

In a statement last Monday, Hernandez laid down the eight facts that would prove the country exhaused all means to peacefully settle the dispute. There were:

  1. As we had previously stated on numerous occasions, the Philippines and China have been exchanging views on these disputes in attempts to achieve negotiated solutions since the first “Philippines-China Bilateral Consultations on the South China Sea Issue” were held in August 1995. However, despite more than seventeen (17) years of consultations, no progress has been made. 
  2. Since intrusions in the Bajo de Masinloc started in April 2012 alone, we have had nearly fifty (50) consultations with China.
  3. On maritime talks indicated by China in the ASEAN meetings in Brunei, we clarify that, in fact, the Philippines invited China to hold informal talks. This was held early last year, including a two-day session in Manila. Subsequent plans to meet further were overtaken by continuing intrusions by China, especially in Bajo de Masinloc since April last year.
  4. We had all along been indicating publicly our three-track approach of diplomatic, political, and legal tracks, including arbitration.
  5. Prior to our filing of the arbitration case, in contradiction with China’s declaration in the ASEAN meetings in Brunei that we did not signal a possible Philippine arbitration track, we did invite China to join us in bringing the issue to a dispute settlement mechanism to resolve the issue on a long-term basis. This was officially communicated through a note verbale dated 26 April 2012. In its official response to our note verbale, China stated that our proposal was a “none ground” issue and it urged the Philippines “to refrain from any infringement on China’s territorial sovereignty.”
  6. Prior to this, on various occasions, we had verbally invited China to join us in ITLOS. In fact, during the very first official visit of Secretary Albert F. del Rosario to China in July 2011, he proposed to Chinese top leaders to jointly bring this issue to ITLOS for adjudication. During the visit, Secretary Del Rosario met at length with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi who subsequently brought the Secretary to meet with then Vice President Xi Jinping.
  7. Secretary Albert F. del Rosario visited Beijing three times with an invitation for the Chinese Foreign Minister to visit Manila for consultations. Up to now, we are awaiting a favorable response to our renewed invitations.
  8. In all of these dialogues, China has consistently maintained its hard line position of “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, based on historical facts. The Chinese unequivocal message: Tanggapin ninyo na amin ang buong South China Sea bago tayo mag-usap.  It has, therefore, become impossible to continue bilateral discussions on disputes in the West Philippine Sea with China on the basis of this rigid position. This led us to finally resort to arbitration under Annex VII of the UNCLOS.

China an enemy?

Hua also expressed regret that Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario portrayed China as an enemy in the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Brunei.

Related story: Chinese foreign ministry hits Del Rosario

"It is difficult for China to understand how could the Philippines continue to play up the issue of the South China Sea, distort the facts and smear China," she said.

While Beijing maintains its view that the Philippines have encroached on the coastal areas which China claims as its own, Hua said that the administration of Chinese President Xi Jingping wants to retain the bilateral track to solve the territorial dispute instead of resorting to arbitration through the United Nations.

"China stays committed to solving disputes concerning territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation through bilateral negotiations in accordance with relevant regulations of international law and the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," the Sino official said.

Related story: Bilateral talks with China on sea row impossible -DFA

"China urges the Philippines to correct its erroneous actions, make positive response to China's suggestions in March, 2010 and January, 2012 respectively of establishing the Sino-Philippine regular consultation mechanism on maritime issues and resuming the Sino-Philippine mechanism on trust-building measures, and come back to the correct track of resolving disputes through bilateral negotiations," she added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs announced Tuesday that the United Nations has started the proceedings on the arbitral protest filed by the Philippines against China over the South China Sea dispute.

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