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Sea row must be resolved based on UNCLOS – Locsin

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
Sea row must be resolved based on UNCLOS â Locsin
In this June 27, 2019 photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. congratulates the newly-commissioned foreign service officers.
DFA / Released

MANILA, Philippines — The disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 arbitral award, the Philippines’ top diplomat said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. raised the South China Sea issue and the ruling in favor of the Philippines during the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference Session with China on Tuesday attended by his ASEAN counterparts and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“A peaceful South China Sea is essential to its protection and sustainable management. Disputes in it should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and in recent light of the 2016 Arbitral Award which singles out no one, was carefully crafted as to be unusable as a weapon for disputation and most helpful in clarifying maritime issues,” Locsin said.

He noted that Scandinavian countries are now invoking the award.

In a landmark ruling on July 12, 2016, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration found no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to a ‘nine-dash line’ in the South China Sea and Beijing had breached the sovereign rights of the Philippines, which brought the case.

China, however, continues to oppose and refuses to honor the tribunal ruling.

During the meeting, Locsin conveyed his congratulatory message to his Chinese counterpart on the 100th founding anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, saying “it is the most important event in the modern history of Asia and its future.”

He defended China against critics of Chinese-made vaccines.

“When critics of China said its vaccines are not as good, I asked: As compared to what? The Chinese vaccines were the first on the scene. Had many countries not made a grab for it, the death toll would be far greater. The extent might be the same; but the intensity of the infections far worse,” Locsin said.

‘Coordinated position’

Sen. Risa Hontiveros has called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to push ASEAN member-states to establish a coordinated position against China’s incursions in disputed waters in the region.

Hontiveros issued the statement amid the ongoing ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting from Aug. 2 to 6, 2021.

“ASEAN should stand as one. When it comes to China’s belligerent actions in the West Philippine Sea, ASEAN’s principle of non-interference does not apply. Should China impede freedom of navigation in the entire South China Sea, it is not only the Philippines that will be gravely affected, but also the whole region. If the Philippines loses this diplomatic battle against China, the ASEAN loses, too,” Hontiveros said.

Since 2016, the DFA has filed over 100 diplomatic protests against China’s various activities in the West Philippine Sea.

Other members of the ASEAN are also strongly pushing back. This year, Malaysia lodged a diplomatic protest after “suspicious” Chinese aircraft were spotted over the South China Sea off Borneo.

In 2020, Vietnam was also reported to be exploring raising an international arbitration case against China.

“The ASEAN must actively exhaust all legal and diplomatic means to resist China’s excessive claims. Being passive does not help our case, especially in the face of an aggressor. China deliberately targets weaker states unable to effectively resist, thus the need for unified and concerted action,” Hontiveros said.

Besides national security threats in the ASEAN, Hontiveros also said that China’s presence in the West Philippine Sea contributes to environmental degradation of marine life in the disputed waters. According to reports, the Philippines has lost over P800 billion worth of marine life and resources due to China’s presence. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

ASEAN SOUTH CHINA SEA
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