Washington has reiterated Beijing “has no lawful claim” in areas judged by an international arbitral tribunal to be part of Manila’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Visiting Department of State Counselor Derek Chollet issued the statement following the recent maneuverings of the Chinese Coast Guard close to Philippine Coast Guard vessels off Scarborough Shoal.
Chollet described the situation in the South China Sea as “ground zero for strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific” and “test for international rules-based order.”
He stressed the need for the US and the Philippines to continue sharing information and coordinating responses to China’s use of “leverage” to coerce the Philippines or others in the disputed waters.
“Our view has been very clear that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) has no lawful claim to the area determined by the arbitral tribunal to be part of the Philippines, to the Philippines EEZ and continental shelf. We recognize the sovereign rights and the jurisdiction under the UN Law of the Sea treaty of the Second Thomas Shoal and Reed Bank,” Chollet said.
Chollet met with Philippine officials in Manila where he underscored the US commitment to Southeast Asia and the US-Philippines alliance, particularly its commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
At the same time, Chollet reiterated Washington’s commitment to its obligations under the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty and to find ways to “to refine and strengthen” the security relationship, ensuring that the defense relationship remains “relevant to current challenges.”
Meanwhile, retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said China and other countries whose fishrmen frequent the Scarborough Shoal be taken to an arbitration court to compel them to agree on ground rules for these countries’ fishermen.
Carpio told ANC: “The first thing to do is agree on the ground rules: how many tons of fish can each party take within the year because we don’t want to overfish. There must be ground rules. China even refuses to discuss this,” he said when asked what the next president can do to force Beijing to respect the 2016 arbitral ruling declaring the shoal a common fishing ground.”
“What we can do is bring another case to compel China to agree to ground rules. We will quantify the losses of our fishermen already because our fishermen cannot freely fish there. We will quantify the losses and claim damages against China for these losses,” he added.
Carpio said that Vietnam, which also claims a portion of the South China Sea, should be included in the arbitration process.
“We can ask Vietnam to join us in that arbitration so we will get more countries on our side. This is really a question of getting world opinion on your side because there is no world policeman to enforce the ruling. We can isolate China by getting the world opinion on our side very clearly and that should be our game plan,” he said.
The retired magistrate said the Philippines should conduct joint patrols in the South China Sea with other countries.
“We should do a joint patrol not only with the US but with other countries like Malaysia and Vietnam. We will jointly patrol in the West Philippine Sea and also in their exclusive economic zone, in Vietnam and in Malaysia. Even ask Indonesia to join,” Carpio said.
“If you band together you will have a stronger position. China wants a bilateral dispute, it doesn’t want to internationalize the dispute because it will be isolated.”