MANILA, June 5 (Mabuhay) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday reiterated that United Nations’ arbitration is a peaceful way to settle the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China.
Speaking to reporters, the President said the decision to go to an international arbitral tribunal was done in consultation with the leadership of both houses of Congress.
He also pointed out that arbitration would help peacefully settle the dispute on claims on maritime territories.
“China is always saying – the indisputable fact of their unquestioned sovereignty. It is disputed and we are questioning it. There must be a resolution and the arbitral track is one of the solutions because both of us, and others have said, let us conform to international law,” he said.
Aquino said it is the right of China not to participate in the arbitration proceedings. He added: “We invited them to join, to resolve this because this is a peaceful way to settle the dispute.”
The President said arbitration “will clarify and will lead to a clear determination of the rights and obligations” of states.
“One would hope that they will conform to all the agreements that they have entered into…including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” he said.
A United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal has ordered China to respond to a pleading filed by the Philippines in connection with the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The tribunal, based in The Hague, Netherlands, ordered China to submit not later than December 15 this year its counter-argument to a memorial filed by the Philippines.
The tribunal will determine the further course of the proceedings, including the need for, and scheduling of any other written submissions and hearings, at an appropriate later stage, after seeking the views of the Parties.
China, however, rejected the tribunal’s ruling, preferring a bilateral approach to resolve the conflicts.
“China’s stance of not accepting and not participating in the relevant Philippines’ arbitration case has not changed,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters on Wednesday.
Manila is seeking confirmation of its right to exploit waters in a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone as allowed under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, its lawyers have said.
The United States has said it supports the Philippines’ arbitration case, closely watched by other claimant states including Vietnam which said last month it was considering legal action against China after Beijing moved an oil rig into waters claimed by Hanoi.
That move triggered protests in Vietnam, with angry mobs attacking Taiwanese factories which they mistook to be owned by mainland Chinese. It also led to confrontations in the waters that included the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat which Hanoi blamed on China. (MNS)