Locsin, Pompeo discuss policy on maritime claims
In a statement on July 14, the top US diplomat specifically said China “cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim – including any Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims derived from Scarborough (Panatag) Reef and the Spratly Islands – vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that the Tribunal found to be in the Philippines’ EEZ or on its continental shelf.”
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Locsin, Pompeo discuss policy on maritime claims
Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has discussed with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. his country’s latest policy on maritime claims in the South China Sea, which supports sovereign rights of coastal states as well as rules-based order in contested waters.

In a statement on Friday (Manila time), State Department deputy spokesperson Cale Brown said Pompeo, in a phone call with Locsin, stressed US support for coastal states in Southeast Asia, especially in “upholding their sovereign rights and interests consistent with international law.”

The two diplomats also talked about “opportunities for further US-Philippine maritime cooperation” as well as “the strong economic, security and people-to-people ties that bind our two countries,” Brown said.

Pompeo’s telephone call to Locsin came days after President Duterte stopped the country’s participation in joint maritime exercises with the US and other nations in the South China Sea.

Pompeo, in a tweet yesterday, described his conversation with Locsin as a “good call” as they discussed the two countries’ “shared interests” in the South China Sea.

“The US-Philippine Alliance is vital to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.

Last month, Pompeo said the US was aligning its position with that of the United Nations tribunal’s 2016 decision that sided with the Philippines and nullified China’s “nine-dash line” claim over the entire South China Sea.

In a statement on July 14, the top US diplomat specifically said China “cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim – including any Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims derived from Scarborough (Panatag) Reef and the Spratly Islands – vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that the Tribunal found to be in the Philippines’ EEZ or on its continental shelf.”

Australia has aligned itself with the US in supporting the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling.

China has refused to recognize the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on July 12, 2016, which invalidated the country’s expansive claims over the entire South China Sea and upheld the Philippines’ rights over its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone under the UNCLOS.

Apart from China and the Philippines, the other South China Sea claimants are Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

No conflict

Despite China’s provocative activities in the West Philippine Sea, newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, believes that there is no real dispute with Beijing over territories since the islands and features in  the West Philippine Sea clearly belong to the Filipinos.

“For us, there is no conflict. And the arbitral ruling has clearly dismissed expansive claims that subvert international law and the laws of the sea and we will continue to advance this,” Gapay told reporters at a virtual press briefing held shortly after he assumed the post of chief of staff earlier this week.

The new AFP chief also clearly stated that the West Philippine Sea “is still our territory up to the 12-mile Exclusive Economic Zone.” – With Michael Punongbayan

Affairs (ASPAC) to check on the report.

In a post on Twitter, the Indo-Pacific News said a Chinese survey vessel is currently in the Philippine EEZ, supposedly in Recto (Reed) Bank.

It said the vessel Xiang Yang Hong 14 departed China on July 22 and arrived at Recto Bank on Aug. 6.

“No opposition from the PH coast guard so far, as usual,” the Indo-Pacific News said.  – Michael Punongbayan

TEODORO LOCSIN JR.
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