MANILA (Mabuhay) — The Philippines is still seeking a peaceful resolution to the territorial dispute in the South China Sea despite the recent incident of harassment involving Chinese vessels.
“We believe in the [principle that] what is ours is ours, and so we will continue to push that, and we’re doing that diplomatically,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a press conference Wednesday.
The Philippines has filed another diplomatic protest against China — its second in two weeks — after Chinese vessels allegedly prevented two Filipino vessels carrying supplies and personnel from going to Philippine-controlled Ayungin Shoal off the South China Sea last Sunday.
On Feb. 25, the Philippines also accused China of harassing a group of fishermen off the Scarborough Shoal, another Philippine-claimed area in the South China Sea now being controlled by China after a standoff in 2012.
Lacierda, however, said it’s a standard diplomatic protocol to resort to such processes when such incidents occur. “We have sent a number of notes verbale… whenever an incident like this happened, and I think it’s fair to say we have sent a number.”
“It’s a process that we will continue to exercise. It’s putting on record… our protest and putting on record their offense as we see it, as the Philippine government sees it. We want to de-escalate tensions,” he added.
But Lacierda said these incidents emphasize the need for a rules-based approach to the situation in the South China Sea, citing the arbitration proceedings before the ITLOS, or the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
“Since we have resorted to the diplomatic processes, the arbitration proceeding is one such avenue where we can settle the questioned nine-dash line of the Chinese government,” he said, referring to China’s U-shaped map that covers nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea.
“The nine-dash line is something we cannot accept. It’s as simple as that. That’s why we filed a case, an arbitration case, before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea,” he added.
Lacierda also said countries should realize the power of diplomacy and international support.
“That’s… why we have religiously resorted to the diplomatic process because this is one way of… avoiding violence, showing the strength of our cause; and [showing] that the community of nations believe in a rules-based approach to any conflict,” he said.
“That’s the means by which we are exercising our voice as a sovereign nation,” Lacierda added. (MNS)