PH promises UN peace in South China Sea

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has promised the United Nations (UN) it would peacefully resolve the ongoing standoff in Scarborough Shoal despite China's consistent refusal to bring the issue before a UN court.

In a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines will work toward a peaceful solution based on the UN Charter, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), and other principles of international law.

Their meeting took place Friday, May 4, in connection with the 20th anniversary of the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes. The Scarborough Shoal tension between the Philippines and China, which Del Rosario brought up, is now approaching its first month.

“We believe that the unfolding events are of great interest to all nations, as they have a stake in the peace and stability of this economically and politically strategic area,” Del Rosario said.

Ban, for his part, commended the Philippines for promoting mediation in disputes, according to a Department of Foreign Affairs statement Saturday, May 5. “I hope that our work on promoting mediation will build on the groundwork already laid by the Manila Declaration,” he said.

No to mediation

China, however, has repeatedly rejected a 3rd party in its Scarborough Shoal dispute with the Philippines. Instead, the mainland has stressed it wants bilateral negotiations between the two countries.

“It should be pointed out that China's position of addressing the issue through diplomatic consultations has not changed,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin in a statement published by state-run media Saturday.

Telling the Philippines to stop “internationalizing” the issue, China has turned down the Philippines' proposal for international mediation.

Likewise, it has declined the Philippines' invitation to bring the dispute before the UN's International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, a court formed under Unclos. 

'Great equalizer'

The Philippines considers international law the “great equalizer” in its dispute with China, which boasts a better equipped military.

Meanwhile, the country recently won its first territorial claim under Unclos, a development Filipinos hailed in light of the standoff in Scarborough Shoal. 

UNDERWATER PLATEAU. The 13-million hectare Benham Rise, the territory that the Philippines recently won, is bigger than Luzon. Screen grab from the Benham Rise document submitted to the UN

UNDERWATER PLATEAU. The 13-million hectare Benham Rise, the territory that the Philippines recently won, is bigger than Luzon.

Screen grab from the Benham Rise document submitted to the UN

The Philippines has won its claim over Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare territory off the province of Aurora that is potentially rich in steel-producing minerals and natural gas.

“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 told Rappler. – Rappler.com 

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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