US urges China to respect PH's arbitration move

Posted at 03/31/14 2:43 AM

MANILA - The United States on Sunday expressed support for the Philippines' filing of a Memorial before an international arbitral court to support its claims on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In a statement, US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf lauded the Philippines' peaceful ways of seeking a resolution of its dispute with China.

"The United States reaffirms its support for the exercise of peaceful means to resolve maritime disputes without fear of any form of retaliation, including intimidation or coercion," Harf said.

"All countries should respect the right of any States Party, including the Republic of the Philippines, to avail themselves of the dispute resolution mechanisms provided for under the Law of the Sea Convention," she added.

The US is hoping that the Memorial filed will provide greater legal certainty on the issue of compliance with the international law of the sea.

On Sunday, the Philippines proceeded to file its Memorial despite reported pressures from China not to file it.

"With firm conviction, the ultimate purpose of the memorial is our national interest. It’s about defining what is legitimately ours. It’s about securing our children’s future. It’s about guaranteeing the freedom of navigation. It’s about preserving our regional peace, security, and stability," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a press conference Sunday.

The move came after an incident at Ayungin Shoal where two Chinese Coast Guard vessels again tried to block a civilian ship used by the government to transport food and supplies to Filipino soldiers stationed there.

Arbitration would clarify Manila's rights to fishing and other resources in its exclusive economic zone as well as rights to enforce its laws in those areas, del Rosario said earlier this month.

China has refused to participate in the arbitration but Manila hopes to get a favorable decision at the soonest possible time, the government's chief lawyer Francis Jardaleza said.

"The question of, what if the Philippines gets a favourable ruling? The Philippines has always taken the position that a favorable ruling is a ruling that China, as a member of the community of nations, is bound legally to accept and to implement," Jardaleza said.

A ruling against China by the Permanent Court of Arbitration could prompt other claimants to challenge Beijing, experts said. But while legally binding, any ruling would effectively be unenforceable as there is no body under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to police such decisions, legal experts said.

China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters. -- with Reuters