China accuses Manila of abusing UN sea law

November 28, 2012 - 12:00:00 am

MANILA: China accused the Philippines of misinterpreting and abusing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in making its claim over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

However, China is unwilling to join the Philippines in going before an international tribunal to validate and defend its claims.

Zhang Hua, Chinese embassy spokesman, said the Philippines cannot use UNCLOS as a basis to claim that Panatag Shoal is within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“Clearly, the Philippines here has misinterpreted and misapplied UNCLOS on the basis of its own interests, which is contrary to international law and to UNCLOS.”

Zhang said it has been an established basic principle of international law that “the land dominates the sea.”

“Coastal states derive their sovereign rights and jurisdiction over EEZs from their territorial sovereignty,” he said. “UNCLOS does not have any provision to change a country’s sovereignty over territorial land, let alone empowering any nation to extend its EEZs to include territories of other countries.”

Zhang said UNCLOS cannot serve as a basis for a country to claim sovereignty over Panatag Shoal, which China calls Huangyan island.

“In this context, ignoring the fact Huangyan Island has always belonged to China, the Philippines’ EEZs-based territorial claim to the detriment of China’s territorial sovereignty is not only a misinterpretation and abuse of UNCLOS, but also represents a violation of the fundamental principle of the inviolability of territorial sovereignty enshrined in the UN Charter,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said China’s 9-dash line claim is an excessive declaration of maritime space, which is a violation of international law.

DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said the Philippines has sovereignty over the rock features of Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag on the basis of effective occupation and effective jurisdiction.

“Philippine sovereign rights over the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in Bajo de Masinloc are governed by UNCLOS,” he said.

“The Philippines demands that China respect the territory and maritime domain of the Philippines.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said that President Aquino has called on China to withdraw their vessels from Panatag Shoal and respect the Philippines’ EEZ.

Based on UNCLOS and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), Aquino called on all parties to respect the EEZ and continental shelf of all coastal states irrespective of their size or naval power, he added.

Last week, the Philippines protested China’ sprinting of a map of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in new Chinese electronic passports.

A diplomatic note was sent to the Chinese embassy to protest the inclusion of the 9-dash lines in the e-passports of China as such image covers an area that is clearly part of the Philippine territory and maritime domain.

The Philippines does not accept the validity of the 9-dash lines that amount to an excessive declaration of maritime space in violation of international law.

However, Hernandez told reporters the Philippines will be accepting Chinese passports for visa application through normal process while an interagency committee is still discussing the issue.


US involvement

The US will block China’s encompassing territorial claim to protect its interests in the West Philippine Sea, according to a University of the Southern California documentary.

In a video showing entitled: “The South China: Troubled Waters” at the USC’s US-China Institute, Dan Lynch, school of international relations associate professor, said the US will oppose any use or threat of force in resolving the territorial disputes.

While the US has declared that it is not taking sides in territorial disputes, China by now is already reading between the lines in so far as the US action is concerned, the documentary said.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton herself openly declared in July before the Asian regional forum in Vietnam that the US had a national interest in maintaining freedom of navigation in the area.

The documentary quoted Clinton as declaring that the South China Sea disputes must be resolved in a collaborative diplomatic process without coercion and that Washington will oppose the use or threat of force by any party in settling the issue. “To me that’s a sharp rebuke on China’s position. The US contests and will potentially seek to block China’s claim over most of the South China Sea,” Lynch said. 

The Philippine Star