US urges China: Cease aggressive maritime behavior, comport to 2016 tribunal ruling

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
US urges China: Cease aggressive maritime behavior, comport to 2016 tribunal ruling
This March 22, 2021 aerial photo shows Chinese vessels still present in the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Armed Forces of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — On the seventh anniversary of the Hague ruling that struck down China’s claims over parts of the West Philippine Sea, the United States pressed China to cease its "routine harassment" of maritime vessels and finally abide by the tribunal’s 2016 decision. 

The US Department of State said on July 11 that it “continues to urge Beijing to comport its maritime claims with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.”

Washington also called on Beijing to cease its harassment of vessels “awfully operating in their respective exclusive economic zones” and to “halt its disruption to states’ sovereign rights to explore, exploit, conserve, and manage natural resources.” 

Beijing must also “end its interference with the freedoms of navigation and overflight of states lawfully operating in the region,” the US said.

July 12, 2023 marks seven years since the Permanent Court of Arbitration found that China’s claim of historic rights in the South China Sea was baseless.

“We will continue working with allies and partners to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific, one that is at peace and grounded in respect for international law,” the US State Department said.

US-Philippines relations

Since President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos took office, the Philippines and the United States have seen warmer ties through closer military cooperation and high-level interactions.

Earlier this year, Marcos greenlighted the creation of four new EDCA sites, with then-Defense chief Carlito Galvez explicitly saying that these locations were chosen based on the country's "most vulnerable" spots in terms of maritime security.

The move had angered Beijing and prompted the Chinese embassy in Manila to accuse the Philippines of kowtowing to US demands to use the archipelago “to encircle and contain China through its military alliance.”

Amid the reported regular harassment of Filipino fisherfolk by Chinese vessels, the Philippine Coast Guard has amped up its "name and shame" campaign to highlight China's aggressive maritime behavior. 

PCG Spokesperson Jay Tarriela said that there has been a noticeable change in the behavior of the Chinese Coast Guard a year since the PCG began publicizing photos and written accounts of Chinese vessels' irregular behavior at sea.

Fisher group PAMALAKAYA said in a statement Tuesday that Filipino fisherfolk have suffered a 70% loss in income per fishing trip since China intensified its presence in Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in Zambales during the Duterte administration.

"As a result, a significant number of fishers have been forced to abandon their livelihoods at sea and seek alternative means of income," said PAMALAKAYA spokesperson Fernando Hicap.

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