U.S., Australia, Japan to PH: Follow the ruling you won

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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U.S., Australia, Japan to PH: Follow the ruling you won

Angie de Silva

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop voice 'their strong opposition to coercive unilateral actions' in the disputed South China Sea

MANILA, Philippines – The United States, Japan, and Australia urged the Philippines on Monday, August 7, to abide by its own legal victory against China over the disputed South China Sea.

These countries’ foreign ministers – Rex Tillerson of the US, Taro Kono of Japan, and Julie Bishop of Australia – issued the same reminder to China at the end of their trilateral meeting in Manila. This took place on the sidelines of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings in Manila. 

“The ministers called on China and the Philippines to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal’s 2016 Award in the Philippines-China arbitration, as it is final and legally binding on both parties,” the ministers’ joint statement said.

The 3 foreign ministers were referring to the Philippines’ legal victory against China before a Hague tribunal in July 2016. Following the lead of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has downplayed the ruling to boost economic ties with Beijing. (READ: PH hails ties with China on year 1 of Hague ruling)

In their joint statement on Monday, Tillerson, Kono, and Bishop also “expressed serious concerns over maritime disputes in the South China Sea (SCS),” parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.

“The ministers voiced their strong opposition to coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions,” the joint statement said.

‘Refrain from land reclamation’

The 3 ministers then urged claimants in the South China Sea “to refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts, militarization of disputed features, and undertaking unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the marine environment in areas pending delimitation.”

At the same time, the ministers urged ASEAN member states and China to quickly finalize a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea. 

Their joint statement comes after China warned ASEAN on Sunday, August 6, against “outside parties” in drafting a COC. 

Also on Sunday, ASEAN foreign ministers criticized China’s land reclamation activities in the South China Sea, defying expectations of a weaker statement at the end of their Manila meeting.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier criticized the Duterte administration for not asking the world to support the Philippines after the ruling came out in July 2016.

“When the ruling came out, we did not ask the international community to support us anymore. We dropped the ball,” Carpio said in a forum on July 12 this year. – Rappler.com 

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering 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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com