PH slaps China with 8 facts vs ‘baseless’ claim

Paterno Esmaquel II
The DFA answers point by point the Chinese Foreign Minister's claim that the Philippines lied in Belgium about the South China Sea dispute

DISPUTED AREA. China claims virtually all of the West Philippine Sea even within the 200-nautical-mile Philippine exclusive economic zone. Graphic by Bardo Wu

MANILA, Philippines – Point by point, the Philippines rebuffed China on Monday, July 15, after the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lied in Belgium about the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute.

In a press conference, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez presented 8 facts to belie the statement made by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying last Friday, July 12.

Hernandez took exception to this statement by Hua: “The Philippines’ claim that ‘it had exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful settlement of the dispute’ is completely not true.”

Hua was referring to a speech by Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario in Brussels, Belgium, last July 9, about the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China.

In turn, Hernandez said on Monday, “The Chinese statement is baseless.” He also blasted China’s “rigid position” that goes: “Tanggapin ninyo na amin ang buong South China Sea bago tayo mag-usap.” (First accept that the whole South China Sea is ours before we start talking.) 

8 points vs China

“For the record,” Hernandez said, “we wish to present the facts as follows: 

1. “As we had previously stated on numerous occasions, the Philippines and China have been exchanging views on these disputes in attempts to achieve negotiated solutions since the first Philippines-China Bilateral Consultations on the South China Sea Issue were held in August 1995. However, despite more than 17 years of consultations, no progress has been made. 

 2. “Since intrusions in the Bajo de Masinloc started in April 2012 alone, we have had nearly 50 consultations with China.

 3. “On maritime talks indicated by China in the ASEAN meetings in Brunei, we clarify that, in fact, the Philippines invited China to hold informal talks. This was held early last year, including a two-day session in Manila. Subsequent plans to meet further were overtaken by continuing intrusions by China, especially in Bajo de Masinloc since April last year.

 4. “We had all along been indicating publicly our 3-track approach of diplomatic, political, and legal tracks, including arbitration.

 5. “Prior to our filing of the arbitration case, in contradiction with China’s declaration in the ASEAN meetings in Brunei that we did not signal a possible Philippine arbitration track, we did invite China to join us in bringing the issue to a dispute settlement mechanism to resolve the issue on a long-term basis. This was officially communicated through a note verbale dated April 26, 2012. In its official response to our note verbale, China stated that our proposal was a ‘none ground’ issue and it urged the Philippines ‘to refrain from any infringement on China’s territorial sovereignty.’

6. “Prior to this, on various occasions, we had verbally invited China to join us in ITLOS. In fact, during the very first official visit of Secretary Albert F del Rosario to China in July 2011, he proposed to Chinese top leaders to jointly bring this issue to ITLOS for adjudication. During the visit, Secretary Del Rosario met at length with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi who subsequently brought the Secretary to meet with then Vice President Xi Jinping.

7. “Secretary Albert F del Rosario visited Beijing 3 times with an invitation for the Chinese Foreign Minister to visit Manila for consultations. Up to now, we are awaiting a favorable response to our renewed invitations.”

8. “In all of these dialogues, China has consistently maintained its hard line position of ‘indisputable sovereignty’ over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, based on historical facts. The Chinese unequivocal message: Tanggapin ninyo na amin ang buong South China Sea bago tayo mag-usap.  It has, therefore, become impossible to continue bilateral discussions on disputes in the West Philippine Sea with China on the basis of this rigid position. This led us to finally resort to arbitration under Annex VII of the UNCLOS.”

‘Peaceful’ move but…

Hernandez added the Philippines “remains steadfast in peacefully resolving” the dispute before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The arbitral tribunal to settle the dispute “is now in place,” he noted. 

China, however, has rejected the proceedings initiated by the Philippines.

“We moreover reiterate that the Philippines adheres to the agreement reached between the leaders of the Philippines and China in 2011 ‘not to let the maritime disputes affect the broader picture of friendship and cooperation between the two countries,” Hernandez said.

The Philippines and China remain caught in a decades-long dispute over portions of the West Philippine Sea.

To help settle the issue, Del Rosario has invited Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to visit the Philippines. This was after reportedly “testy exchanges” between them in the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum in Brunei.

Territorial disputes also drive a wedge between China and other members of the ASEAN – Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.