MANILA: The refusal of China to participate in the arbitration process on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute is favourable to the Philippines, Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said yesterday.
Gazmin said China’s refusal would raise questions.
“It would be favourable for us if they do not participate,” he said. “The natural reaction is to wonder why they don’t want to face the tribunal.” Gazmin noted the arbitration process would continue even if China rejected it.
Last month, the Philippines challenged China’s claim to most of the South China Sea before an arbitral tribunal of the United Nations.
China claims almost the entire West Philippine Sea and the East Sea. The area, delineated by a so-called nine-dash line, covers more than 100 islets, atolls and reefs.
The Philippines hopes the international tribunal will define the country’s maritime entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Philippines has also asked China to desist from unlawful activities that violate its sovereign rights and jurisdiction.
On Tuesday, China rejected the conduct of international proceedings on the dispute and insisted that the row be settled through bilateral talks.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the notice of arbitration forwarded by the Philippines has “serious mistakes both in fact and law.”
China reiterated that it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the entire West Philippine Sea, a claim that the Philippines has described as “excessive.”
The Philippines, however, said the refusal of China to join the proceedings will not derail the arbitration process. “China’s action will not interfere with the process of arbitration initiated by the Philippines on January 22, 2013. The Arbitration will proceed under Annex VII of UNCLOS and the 5-member arbitration panel will be formed with or without China,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“The Philippines remains committed to arbitration which is a friendly, peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement that should be welcomed by all,” it added.
The Philippine Star