France, Germany, and the United Kingdom submitted a note verbale to the United Nations, asserting the 2016 arbitral award that rejected China’s vast “historical claims” in the resource-rich South China Sea.
The Philippines on Friday thanked the three European nations for calling out China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea but said it was not realistic to raise the issue before the UN General Assembly.
“We thank these countries because our victory in the arbitral tribunal that said that China has no legal basis for its claims cannot be erased,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said from Baguio City.
Roque said the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration is binding on the Philippines and China, despite Beijing’s refusal to recognize it.
“China does not recognize the decision but because it is a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it gave its consent to settle all disputes through the settlement procedure stated in that law,” Roque said in Filipino.
But Roque was lukewarm to calls to bring the sea row before the UNGA saying the arbitral decision was already a victory in itself.
“What many do not understand is that the decision itself is a victory, having that decision is the act of being assertive,” he said.
“If we do something else, such as bring it up before the UNGA, that will already be black propaganda. We can do that, but let us be realistic. We cannot sway the 197 members of the UN if our opponent is China because we have limited resources,” Roque said.
The diplomatic notes, dated Sept. 16, came following the numerous communications issued by China in response to Malaysia’s submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
The three European powers collectively said the “claims with regard to the exercise of historic rights over the South China Sea waters do not comply with international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provisions” and none less than the 2016 landmark decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration “confirms this point.”
In their note verbale, the three nations also called on all claimants to resolve disputes “peacefully” and in accordance with the principles and rules of UNCLOS.
The South China Sea where the Spratly Islands are located, is contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and China, which claims almost 80 percent of the waters under its so-called “nine-dash line.”
The arbitration case initiated and won by the Philippines in 2016 ruled that these sweeping claims by the Asian power are illegal, a ruling Beijing continues to reject until now.
The tribunal further ruled that UNCLOS “superseded any historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, in excess of the limits imposed therein.”
In a prior diplomatic note dated March 6, 2020, Manila refuted China’s claims on the Spratly Islands or the Kalayaan Island Group as “inconsistent with international law, including UNCLOS.”
It underscored that the Philippines has “sovereignty and jurisdiction” over the said area as well as the Bajo de Masinloc.
The Philippines in July publicly called on China to comply with the ruling, which was immediately dismissed by Beijing as “illegal and invalid.”
Former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario issued a statement welcoming the statement from France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
“Along with the US, these European nations confirm our position that there is international support for our country’s lawful rights in our West Philippine Sea, as ruled by the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague. The position of France, Germany and the UK also unequivocally supports the will of the Filipino people, as shown in surveys, that our government should raise the arbitral ruling in the UN General Assembly and other international fora.
“Given the clear international and domestic support for our arbitral ruling, it is both incomprehensible and disappointing that our government refuses to invoke the arbitral ruling for the sake of the Filipino people. It is our fervent hope that our government will finally listen to its people.”