MANILA, Philippines – China has rejected the Philippines’ invitation to take the ongoing Scarborough Shoal dispute to an international court, a Chinese state-run newspaper said Thursday, April 19.
The Chinese government, instead, sent one of its major ships to reinforce its patrols in the South China Sea.
“The moves underscored Beijing’s determination to protect its maritime interests in response to Manila’s refusal to withdraw ships from Chinese waters,” China Daily reported.
The spokesperson of the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Raul Hernandez, confirmed this development in an interview on ANC.
“A rejection of such invitation – which is one way of solving this situation diplomatically and peacefully – is actually saying that they are not prepared to validate their claims,” Hernandez said.
On Tuesday, April 17, the DFA said the Philippines is inviting China to join it in settling the dispute in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
“The whole world knows that China has myriad more ships and aircraft than the Philippines. At day’s end, however, we hope to demonstrate that international law would be the great equalizer,” the DFA said in a statement.
China’s rejection of the Philippines’ call elicited a mix of reactions on the China Daily website.
“Please do not be soft-handed nor extended any more goodwill to this nation of low-class officials,” a reader said in a comment, addressing China.
A China Daily reader, who goes by the username Anita, said the Philippines is taking the issue to an international tribunal probably because it has “some pretty convincing arguments.” “If China is so certain of its position, why doesn’t it go to an international tribunal as well?”
“China acknowledges their law even if the rule of the sea says otherwise,” a reader commented. Even a child who does well in math can compute which country it falls under, based on the distance and scope of territory. But again, China is living (with) its own rules where everything is perfect… for them.”
Another reader said, “This problem cannot be solved since both sides consider the area as their territory.”
In a Thought Leaders piece for Rappler, top diplomat Rodolfo Severino said a “genuine clash of interests” exists between the Philippines and China.
“(In) the light of this genuine clash of interests, both sides must refrain from holding up hope that the legal and sovereignty disputes will someday be resolved. They will not,” Severino said.
China claims its owns Scarborough Shoal after first discovering it in the 13th century, wrote veteran China watcher Chito Sta Romana in another Thought Leaders piece.
More Chinese ships
Updating the public on the situation in Scarborough Shoal, Hernandez relayed reports that 2 Chinese surveillance ships are now in the area, as opposed to one vessel from the Philippine Coast Guard – BRP Edsa.
“This is really a violation of the international law on peaceful settlement of issues,” Hernandez said.
Nevertheless, the DFA spokesperson said the Philippines doesn’t want to aggravate the situation. “We want to continue talking, and we want to continue finding solutions that would be diplomatic,” he said.
In the past few days, the Philippines and China have both accused each other of worsening the situation in Scarborough Shoal. – Rappler.com