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Philippines Calls on China to Respect Coming Decision on Sea Claims

FILE - Protesters display placards during a rally at the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, Philippines, Nov. 12, 2015.

The Philippines asked China on Monday to respect an upcoming decision by an international arbitration tribunal on Beijing's claim to most of the South China Sea to show it does not regard itself as “above the law.”

Reacting to criticism by his Chinese counterpart, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Beijing should foster a world order based on international law by heeding the expected decision this year.

The Philippines asked the tribunal in The Hague in early 2013 to rule on the validity of China's vast claims in the South China Sea based on the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and to define whether certain disputed reefs and atolls mostly controlled by China give it the right to territorial waters. China has refused to take part in the arbitration and is expected to ignore any decision.

The five-member tribunal decided last October that it has the authority to hear and rule on the case this year.

Last Thursday, Wang accused the Philippines of shutting the door to bilateral negotiations over the dispute and called Manila's move a “political provocation.”

He said the decision by the Philippine government was “irresponsible to the Filipino people and the future of the Philippines.” Wang said China wanted to contribute to the economic development of the Philippines.

Del Rosario said the Philippines “had countless meetings with China to try to address the issue between the two of us to no avail.” The Philippines also tried unsuccessfully to invite China to join the arbitration, he said.

“As we presume to be responsible states, the Philippines, as well as the international community, are asking China to respect the forthcoming ruling,” del Rosario said in a statement. “If China does not heed our collective call, does it mean that China considers itself above the law?”

The long-raging territorial disputes, which also involve Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, escalated in recent years when China used large amounts of sand to transform seven disputed reefs into islands, where it is now constructing buildings, radar facilities and runways, alarming rival claimants as well as the United States.