China: ‘Weird’ to bring dispute to int’l court

This statement comes over a week after the Philippines won its first territorial victory before the UN

INT'L COURT? Weird prospect, China says.

MANILA, Philippines – China has one word to describe the prospect of bringing to an international court its Scarborough Shoal dispute with the Philippines: weird.

“Isn’t it a weird thing among international affairs (sic) to raise a country’s territory to international tribunals? How chaotic the world would be?” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei at a news conference Tuesday, May 8.

“Whatever the Philippine side said and did about Huangyan Island does not change the basic fact that the island belongs to China,” Hong added.

Hong made these statements over a week after the Philippines won its first territorial claim under the United Nations Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the same UN convention the Philippines is invoking in its claim over Scarborough Shoal.

The UN had approved the Philippines’ claim over Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare territory bigger than Luzon that potentially contains steel-producing minerals and natural gas. The Philippine government, however, has not made an official announcement about this, with initial statements having come from media interviews.  

UNDERWATER PLATEAU. Found near Aurora, the 13-million hectare Benham Rise is part of Philippine territory. Screen grab from a document the Philippines submitted to UN

“It’s important to us because it underlines the fact that the Philippines adheres to international law in making territorial claims,” Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang earlier told Rappler. (Read: 13-M hectare Benham Rise lifts Pinoy spirits

In a statement sent via text message Wednesday, May 9, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario questioned China’s “vehement” rejection of using international law to validate its claims over Scarborough Shoal.

“What the Philippines is trying to do is to build a rules-based environment and create the conditions that will shape the behavior of all parties towards the peaceful resolution of disputes,” Del Rosario said.

‘Serious mistakes’

Meanwhile, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying summoned the Philippines’ charge d’ affaires in China, Alex Chua, to make a “serious representation” over the situation Monday, May 7.

“It is obvious that the Philippine side has not realized that it is making serious mistakes and instead is stepping up efforts to escalate tension,” Fu told Chua.

The President has not yet appointed a Philippine ambassador to China after his first nominee, Domingo Lee, withdrew his nomination. 

Fu also said Beijing is ready for the escalation of a drawn-out maritime standoff with the Philippines, with the tension in Scarborough Shoal having entered its first month. 

On Monday, China also raised a howl over the Philippines’ “new” name for Scarborough Shoal – “Panatag Shoal.” 

China, for its part, has called the area Huangyan Island for reasons that can benefit its territorial claims. (Read: Why China calls it Huangyan Island– Rappler.com