The Philippines on Monday urged China, as a responsible member of the international community, to respect a forthcoming ruling by an arbitration court in the Hague on a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.
China refuses to recognise the case lodged by the Philippines with the tribunal and says all disputes should be resolved through bilateral talks.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario’s comments came after China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, on a visit to the United States, accused the Philippines of “political provocation” in seeking arbitration to resolve the dispute.
“The Philippines, as well as the international community, is asking China to respect the forthcoming ruling of the arbitral tribunal and together advance an international rules-based regime,” del Rosario said in a statement in Manila.
“If China does not heed our collective call, does it mean that China considers itself above the law?”
The tribunal’s ruling is expected before May, said del Rosario, who leaves office on March 7 for health reasons. Manila and Beijing had met several times to discuss maritime disputes but nothing had been resolved, he added.
Wang held talks last week with his counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said China was rapidly militarising the waterway after building artificial islands and deploying fighters and missiles.
Wang defended China’s actions as self-defence but said it would remain open for two-way talks with countries claiming the South China Sea.