DHARAMSHALA, January 24: Lawmakers in the Philippines unanimously adopted a resolution on Wednesday supporting an arbitration case filed by Manila against China and called on the entire nation to unite to protect the country’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.
The House of Representatives unanimously adopted House Resolution 3004, which supports the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China based on Article 287 and Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas
The resolution cited that in order to protect its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea, Manila has no other recourse but to institute compulsory arbitration proceedings against China.
It stressed the Philippines, in the spirit of good and friendly relations with China, has exhausted almost all available tools through its three-track approach – political, diplomatic, and legal – to peacefully settle the dispute.
“China violates not only the rights and jurisdictions of the Philippines but also of other coastal states by claiming virtually the entire South China Sea through its nine-dash line claim. China further violates the rights and jurisdictions of the Philippines through its continuous aggressive assertion of its nine-dash line claim in the West Philippine Sea,” the resolution stated.
On Tuesday, Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario had said that his government will take the dispute to the UNCLOS, which has been ratified by both countries.
The Philippines wants the panel to reject China's claims to nearly the entire South China Sea and to declare China's so-called "nine-dash line" invalid. It is also challenging what it says is China's "illegal" activity around reefs and rocks it says are part of Manila's exclusive economic zone under the U.N. convention.
However, Beijing accused the Philippines of illegally occupying the area and said it has "indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters” with “abundant historical and legal grounds."
"The key and root of the dispute over the South China Sea between China and the Philippines is territorial disputes caused by the Philippines' illegal occupation of some of the Chinese islets and atolls of the Spratly Islands," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said yesterday.
An arbitration, if approved by both parties, could last between three and four years.
Tensions between the two countries have been high since April 2012, when government vessels from both nations faced off for several weeks at the Scarborough Shoal.
Manila accuses China of seizing control over the rocks of the Scarborough Shoal and around the Spratly Islands and then illegally barring the Philippines from navigating or fishing in the area.
There are fears that territorial conflicts in the region, including a dispute between Japan and China in the East China Sea, could spark Asia's next major armed conflict.