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Del Rosario: US study says China’s SCS claims ‘ungrounded’

Pia Lee Brago - The Philippine Star
Del Rosario: US study says Chinaâs SCS claims âungroundedâ
Former Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary Albert del Rosario cited how the US State Department’s “Limits in the Seas No. 150” study released last Jan. 12 draws heavily from the 2016 arbitral ruling won by the Philippines.
US Navy / File

MANILA, Philippines — A new study released by the United States government, which finds China’s claims in the South China Sea “ungrounded” in fact and in law, concurs with the standpoint of the Philippines, a former Filipino foreign affairs chief said yesterday.

Former Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary Albert del Rosario cited how the US State Department’s “Limits in the Seas No. 150” study released last Jan. 12 draws heavily from the 2016 arbitral ruling won by the Philippines.

The Limits in the Seas studies are a longstanding legal and technical series that examine national maritime claims and boundaries and assess their consistency with international law.

In its latest report, the US State Department concluded that “China asserts unlawful maritime claims in most of the South China Sea, including an unlawful historic rights claim” as stated in 2014.

Del Rosario said both studies show that China’s claims are stunning in their outright falsity, such as claiming sovereignty over underwater features in the South China Sea as if they were land territories.

“For instance, Mischief Reef forms part of the waters of the Philippines but China claims Mischief Reef as if it were land territory – thereby artificially and illegally converting the reef as one of its air and naval bases within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines,” Del Rosario said.

“What is remarkable in the 2022 study of the US State Department is that it draws heavily from the 2016 Arbitral Ruling won by the Philippines in The Hague against China,” he said.

In a landmark ruling on July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) 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.

The State Department’s most recent study builds on the Department’s 2014 analysis of China’s ambiguous “dashed-line” claim in the South China Sea.

Since 2014, China has continued to assert claims to a wide swath of the South China Sea as well as to what Beijing has termed “internal waters” and “outlying archipelagos,” all of which are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.

Del Rosario believes that this is part of an ongoing consolidation of positions around the 2016 Arbitral Ruling among those who adhere to the Rule of Law in international relations.

“We have already seen the US, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and our neighbors in the South China Sea invoke the 2016 Arbitral Ruling against China’s preposterous claims,” Del Rosario said.

“We are proud to see that a small country like the Philippines is able to make that impact in the world, so that the Rule of Law prevails over China’s continuing deployment of brute force,” he said.

Del Rosario emphasized that “confronting China over its illegal claims in the South China Sea is an intergenerational struggle” as he urged Filipino voters to “elect a government that would strongly fight for what is ours and for all nations to uphold the Rule of Law.”

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