Philippines tells China: No country can claim an entire sea
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - October 6, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - No matter how big or powerful a country is, it can never justify staking claim over an entire sea or use force to assert such claim, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in an address before the United Nations General Assembly in response to China’s insistence that the West Philippine Sea is theirs.

“The world cannot allow a country, no matter how powerful, to claim an entire sea as its own nor should it allow coercion to be an acceptable dispute settlement mechanism,” Del Rosario told the 70th UN General Assembly last Oct. 2.

He also asked China to join the deliberations on the case filed by Manila with The Hague-based UN arbitral tribunal contesting Beijing’s massive claim in the West Philippine Sea.

“With the growing support from the international community in peacefully resolving disputes in the South China Sea, including   through arbitration, the Philippines believes that the final outcome of this arbitration process would pave the way for a settlement of the maritime disputes,” Del Rosario said.

He said Manila hopes to finally see Beijing’s actions match its declarations so there would be real easing of tensions in the West Philippine and South China Sea.

In reply to Del Rosario, the Chinese delegation said that while China wanted peaceful settlement in accordance with international law, it reiterated its preference for direct negotiations and consultations.

China emphasized that its claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea is based on historical and legal foundations.

“Given that the South China Sea is an international waterway, the stronger the reason to settle any disputes thereof at an international level, under international law, including arbitration under Annex VII of UNCLOS,” the DFA said, referring to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“We cannot, moreover, accept China’s illegal actions on its artificial islands as fait accompli,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy and the navies of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore began on Monday a US-led joint naval exercise in the West Philippine Sea, including in areas near Panatag Shoal off Zambales.

The Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) kicked off in the area within the operational jurisdiction of the Naval Forces NorthWest (NFNW).

“Exercise SEACAT is a scenario-driving tracking exercise which focuses on real time information exchange between navy units involved, coordinated monitoring and close observation on our respective maritime territories, tracking suspicious vessels and eventual conduct of visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS),” Navy spokesman Commander Lued Lincuna said yesterday.

– With Jaime Laude

ACIRC BEIJING CHINA COMMANDER LUED LINCUNA DEL ROSARIO FOREIGN AFFAIRS SECRETARY ALBERT GENERAL ASSEMBLY LAW OF THE SEA SEA SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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