Lorenzana urges parties in sea dispute to avoid acts that may increase tension
MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urges parties claiming parts of the South China Sea to avoid acts that might increase tension in the region.
Lorenzana made the call in a statement he issued late night on Monday, which marked the fifth year since the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued a ruling recognizing the Philippines’ exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.
“Today, we join the Filipino people in celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Arbitral Award. It is a milestone in our country’s history as it affirms our claim over the West Philippine Sea. The award is final and executory,” Lorenzana said.
“On this anniversary, we once again urge all interested parties to heed the call for a rules-based international order and refrain from acts that may exacerbate the tense situation in the area,” he went on.
“We also welcome the support of other nations who consider the award as having the force of international law. We likewise appreciate their serious concerns over excessive maritime claims in the South China Sea,” he added.
On July 12, 2016, the PCA issued the ruling favoring the Philippines and also noting that China’s nine-dash line claim — an imaginary line that includes a large part of the sea as its territory — had no legal and historical basis.
“The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line,” the statement issued by the PCA five years ago said.
“Having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the Tribunal found that it could — without delimiting a boundary — declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China,” it added.
While Lorenzana maintains that the Duterte administration is serious in seeking a peaceful resolution favorable to the country, critics have accused President Rodrigo Duterte of favoring China so much — even claiming that the independent foreign policy is a mere ploy to restore relations with the Asian superpower.
“The Award provided, not only the Philippines but the rest of the world, with a framework for greater cooperation and understanding of complex maritime conflicts,” Lorenzana said.
“Consistent with Philippine national policy, we shall continue to seek all avenues to achieve a peaceful and friendly management of all standing maritime disputes,” he added.
But despite the PCA decision, President Rodrigo Duterte dismissed it as “a mere piece of paper that should be thrown into a wastebasket.”
He also pointed out that the Philippines was indebted to China for its donations of COVID-19 vaccines and its funding of some infrastructure projects.
Chinese intrusions into the West Philippine Sea became a hot topic after the Philippine Coast Guard and the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) made a report last March 21 that 220 Chinese ships spotted in line formation near the Julian Felipe Reef.
The Department of Foreign Affairs lodged a diplomatic protest and Lorenzana issued ou strong-worded statements as the Chinese ships remained in the area even with the repeated demands by the Philippine government to leave.
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