News / Asia

Philippines Rachets Up Pressure on China Over Territorial Dispute

Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario (file)
Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario (file)
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Simone Orendain

The Philippines and China appear no closer to resolving their dispute about claims to certain territories in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has complained about at least seven run-ins with China in locations it says are clearly part of its territory on the South China Sea.

On Monday, Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Del Rosario said China maintained its position that there were no intrusions made.

He said he told Chinese officials that his country is ready to defend itself on the basis of international law.

“We asked them if they would be willing to do the same and we also suggested that the proper forum would be the ITLOS, the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea [ITLOS]," he said. "We suggested that we both go to ITLOS."

The response?

"I’m not sure there was a response" said Del Rosario.

The Philippines has been demanding that China adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which grants nations a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone beyond their coastlines.

The Philippines says most of China’s recent incursions happened within its economic zone.  China maintains it has held sovereignty over practically the entire South China Sea for centuries.

The Spratlys, which are believed to hold vast amounts of oil and natural gas deposits, are being claimed in whole or part by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

During Monday’s news conference, Del Rosario said he remains hopeful that despite tensions about the disputed territory relations with China “would become more normal.”  He says he hopes there will be no further incursions between Filipino ships and Chinese patrols.

“We want a peaceful resolution. We want it on the basis of the application of international law," he said. "We ourselves would want a multilateral approach and we do have the Declaration of the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to govern in the issue.”

Del Rosario also said China remained firm that it prefers to deal with territorial disputes one-on-one through bilateral talks, without involving outside parties such as the U.N. tribunal.

The foreign affairs secretary’s trip to China lays the groundwork for Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s upcoming visit, which is expected at the end of August or early September.

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