Philippines welcomes Euro nations’ pushback against China; insists on tribunal win

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The Philippine government has expressed its gratitude to the three European nations for backing the 2016 arbitral ruling that favoured the Philippines and rejected China’s sweeping maritime claims.

In a joint note verbale submitted to the United Nations on Thursday, the United Kingdom, France and Germany opposed China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.

The three EU countries explicitly cited the landmark ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) junking China’s claims under international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“We thank these nations, because our win in the arbitral ruling that says China has no legal basis to claim the entire South China Sea cannot be erased, and that the historical claims to maritime territories are baseless,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at a press briefing in the northern city of Baguio.

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who led the country’s petition at the PCA, welcomed the note verbale, saying it should spur Manila into action in the UN General Assembly.

“Along with the United States, these European nations confirm our position that there is international support for our country’s lawful rights in our West Philippine Sea, as ruled by the arbitral tribunal in The Hague,” Del Rosario said in a statement.

“Given the clear international and domestic support for our arbitral ruling, it is both incomprehensible and disappointing that our government refuses to invoke the arbitral ruling for the sake of the Filipino people,” he added.

Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio agreed and stressed the importance of the joint note verbale.

“This serves as a warning to China that it cannot draw straight baselines around distant offshore islands or archipelagos since China is not an archipelagic state. The joint note verbale asserts the rights to innocent passage and to freedom of navigation and over flight in the South China Sea in accordance with UNCLOS,” he said.

“The joint note verbale expressly supporting the arbitral award in favour of the Philippines comes right after the (United States) and Australia issued similar statements of support,” Carpio said.

But while government welcomed the note verbale, it insisted that it would be counterproductive to raise the issue before the UN General Assembly because, Roque argued, the Philippines does not have to assert its claims further because it already won a favourable ruling from the PCA in 2016.

“To say that we need to do more on this is black propaganda. They are saying we should bring it to the UN General Assembly. We can do that, but let’s be realistic. We cannot sway the 197 UN members if our opponent is China. We know the limits of our capacity,” he said.

Roque added: “Money talks in politics. That’s the way it is even in international relations. So we cannot go to the Security Council because China has veto power.”

He also noted that in international law, there is no police force that can enforce the decision.

“Our options are limited, on the assumption that countries of the world will voluntarily follow their international obligation,” he said.

Roque noted that although China does not recognize the ruling, the arbitral court’s decision is “binding” on both the Philippines and China as parties to the territorial dispute.

For now, Roque said, President Duterte—as the architect of foreign policy—has decided to set aside the maritime dispute and pursue bilateral cooperation with China.

“Since there is no resolution to this yet, we will set this aside and pursue what we can like talks on trade and investments,” Roque added. (Source: INQUIRER.net)

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