NO nation in the world recognizes China’s nine-dash claim in the South China Sea and the weakness of its legal base is the reason Beijing is undertaking massive reclamation in disputed waters, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
“It reaffirms the belief that no country in the world recognizes that the nine-dash line is a valid claim on the part of China,” Del Rosario said at a forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
Del Rosario accused China of accelerating its expansionist agenda by changing the size, structure and physical attributes of land features in the South China Sea and have even rammed Filipino vessels in the West Philippine Sea, endangering the lives of fishermen.
“China is aware it has to engage in a battle of public opinion and shape the narrative in its favor given the weak legal case it is standing on,” Del Rosario said, adding that the Philippines chose to pursue international arbitration “to preserve a valued friendship” with China.
The DFA chief highlighted the international community’s significant support for the Philippines’ advocacy for a peaceful and rules-based settlement of disputes in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law.
Del Rosario welcomed the growing international support after United States Senators John McCain, Bob Corker, Jack Reed and Bob Menendez warned that China’s land reclamation and construction in the region could be considered “a direct challenge, not only to the interests of the United States and the region, but to the entire international community.”
Del Rosario described the US lawmakers view as very helpful, saying it brings into focus with the international community the differences in terms of what is being said and what is happening on the ground.
“We welcome the statements made and we also welcome the call for a more substantive support and focus on the Asia rebalance strategy of the United States,” he added.
Del Rosario said a comprehensive US strategy on Chinese reclamation would likewise add an important voice to Manila’s arbitration case against China.
The Philippines likewise welcomed the Vietnam’s and Indonesia’s stand against China’s continue expansionism in the south China, adding describing it as helpful in terms of promoting the rule of law and in finding peaceful and nonviolent solutions to the South China Sea claims.
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has earlier announced that part of China’s claims to almost the entire the South China Sea has no legal basis.
“The ‘nine-dash line’ that China says marks its maritime border has no basis in any international law,” Jokowi said.
Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Bin said his government told the Permanent Court of Arbitration that Vietnam fully rejected “China’s claim over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes and the adjacent waters.”
China claimed sovereignty over 90% of the water and all the islands in the South China Sea by drawing a nine-dash line covering 90% of that sea, prompting her neighbors to protest that her claim contradicts international law, specifically the 1982 UNCLOS.
“Even as the Philippines filed arbitral proceedings under Article 287 of UNCLOS, however, China continues to undertake unilateral measures that form part of a pattern of forcing a change in the regional status quo in order to advance and realize its ‘nine-dash line’ claim of undisputed sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea,” Del Rosario said.
“As the arbitration case proceeds, everyone should have a deep appreciation of the case, in the context of our policy on the West Philippine Sea,” he said.
China backs the level of the resources it has poured on consolidating its presence in the South China Sea with an aggressive public diplomacy campaign, in its domestic public, the region and international community, and – as some of you may have noticed -- even in the Philippine public.
He said China is aware that it has to engage in the battle of public opinion and shape the narrative in its favor given the weak legal base that its claims are standing on.
“That said, it is my hope that all Filipinos can work together with us in standing behind our country’s position,” Del Rosario said.
“Ours is a principled position. The challenge, therefore, is to continue communicating effectively and efficiently our principled position on the West Philippine Sea issue. Even as we face a formidable challenge, we have the law on our side. International law is the great equalizer,” he said.
Del Rosario expressed confidence that doing the right thing will help the Philippines get what it think is right.
“We are, moreover, in the right. And right is might, ” Del Rosario concluded.