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The Financial Express

South China Sea disputes: Philippines embassy explains

| Updated: October 24, 2017 09:04:58


South China Sea disputes: Philippines embassy explains

This refers to the opinion piece by Sayed Kamaluddin titled "G-7 summit, China and rising global tensions" published in the FE on June 05, 2016. The article unfortunately carries some misconceptions regarding the maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Here are the facts:
The Philippines conducted limited land reclamation projects in the maritime feature Pag-asa (Thitu) in the 1970s. In 1994, China installed structures in the feature known internationally as Mischief Reef claiming that they were fishermen's shelters. By 1995, however, the structures had taken on the appearance of fortified military facilities. The Philippines protested this act and later removed markers planted by China.
In 2002, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), where the Parties committed to exercise self-restraint from inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features. China, however, continued to conduct massive land reclamation activities despite continuous protests from the Philippines.
The Philippines' confidence-building activities with many countries aim to enhance the Philippines' capacity to handle challenges at sea, which include rescue operations and marine pollution responses.
The Philippines and China have had numerous bilateral talks since 2012. After dialogues with China at the bilateral and multilateral levels failed, the Philippines opted for arbitration as a dispute management mechanism. The arbitration case aims to clarify and protect the maritime entitlements of the Philippines and promote the rule of law, which would benefit the entire international community.
Arbitration is the way forward in peacefully and constructively managing and resolving the disputes between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea. It is a legal diplomatic process promoting the rule of law, and is consistent with the DOC and the region's efforts to peacefully resolve disputes in accordance with international law. It is a peaceful response to China's unilateral actions to pursue its excessive and expansive claims in the South China Sea.
The Philippines advocates the rule of law based on mutual respect, sovereign equality, and a rules-based regime in the South China Sea. The Philippines is open to refreshed relations with China and moving forward together through constructive relations in the coming years.
Lauren Arce, Information Attaché, Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
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