Philippines remains firm on a diplomatic resolution to territorial dispute despite a hawkish China

Posted on February 14, 2015

THE PHILIPPINES remains firm on its push for a diplomatic resolution to territorial disputes, amid reports that Beijing is preparing to use military force in the South China Sea.

Malacañang yesterday maintained the government will settle its escalating tensions with China over shoals in the disputed waters through international arbitration, Communications Secretary Herminio B.Coloma Jr., told a news briefing in Malacañang Friday.

Hindi natitinag ang posisyon ng ating pamahalaan hinggil sa pangangailangan na pairalin ang isang rules-based approach sa pagharap sa mga usapin sa West Philippine Sea o South China Sea,” he said.

(The Philippines government continues to remain firm on its position that a rules-based approach is needed to resolve the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea issue.)

Mr. Coloma made the pronouncement following a statement made by the outgoing US navy intelligence chief of the Pacific Fleet that China “has been and continues to prepare to use military force” in the South China Sea.

Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China agreed in 2002 on the non-binding Declaration of the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. However, more than 10 years later, these countries have yet to come-up with a binding agreement that would govern actions in the disputed waters.

China and the Philippines continue to be embroiled in a territorial dispute over potentially oil-rich parts of the South China Sea, which the Philippines calls as the West Philippine Sea.

Manila has elevated the matter to a United Nations tribunal, a move which China continuously rejected. China is also locked in heated disputes with its neighbors in the region Brunei, Malaysia, as well as Taiwan and Tokyo.

Manila has recently bared China’s “accelerating” construction activities on the disputed shoals the past months. The Philippines has already filed a diplomatic protest against China over supposed reclamation activities in at least five reefs in the West Philippine Sea. -- Imee Charlee C. Delavin