The Philippines has sought the backing of the international community for its decision to challenge China’s far-reaching claims in the South China Sea before a U.N. arbitration body, a move likely to anger Beijing, which opposes foreign intervention in the disputes.
Manila had always argued that a rules-based approach is the only legitimate way in addressing disputes through a legal framework such as the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Alarmed by China’s expansionist moves, which the Philippines called “unlawful” and “invalid,” the government of Benigno S. Aquino III took a bold step on Tuesday when it elevated its long-standing maritime rift with Beijing before the U.N.
“We ask the countries to support the Philippine effort for a peaceful and durable solution to this dispute,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Ocean Affairs Gilberto Asuque told a news conference.
The South China Sea, part of which is known in the Philippines as West Philippine Sea, is an international waterway where more than 50 percent of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage passes each year.
It had been a source of conflict among rival claimants China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
China is citing historical entitlements as its basis for its huge claims over the waters said to be rich in oil and natural gas.
Foreign diplomats and representatives of international organizations were briefed by Foreign Affairs officials on its legal action against China right after the department summoned the Chinese Ambassador on Tuesday to receive a diplomatic note containing the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim filed at the U.N., where the Philippines is believed to have a strong case.
Circulars were likewise sent to all Philippine diplomatic missions to inform host governments that Manila is bringing China before a U.N. tribunal.
Asuque said the posts were instructed to send notes verbale and to present the copy of the notification and statement of claim to their host governments and relevant agencies.
“We’re asking them if they can convince their own political leaders that this is the right course of action taken by the Philippines as a peaceful way to resolve the dispute because this is prescribed under international law,” Asuque said.