Philippines seeks U.N. help to resolve maritime row with China

MANILA Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:00am EST

A page from a Chinese passport displays a Chinese map which includes an area in the South China Sea inside a line of dashes representing maritime territory claimed by China, in Kunming, Yunnan province, November 23, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

A page from a Chinese passport displays a Chinese map which includes an area in the South China Sea inside a line of dashes representing maritime territory claimed by China, in Kunming, Yunnan province, November 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines has asked an international tribunal to intervene in its longstanding South China Sea territorial dispute with China and declare that Beijing's claims are invalid, the government said on Tuesday.

Manila asked the tribunal of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to order a halt to China's activities that the Philippines says violates the Southeast Asian nation's sovereignty.

China's claims over islands, reefs and atolls in resource-rich waters off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia set it directly against U.S. allies Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts.

"The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario told reporters.

"To this day, a solution is still elusive. We hope that the arbitral proceedings shall bring this dispute to a durable solution," he said.

But it was not clear how the tribunal can help. While all its decisions are binding on countries concerned, it has no power to enforce them.

China, in response, restated its claims to the territory and dismissed any need for external intervention.

State news agency Xinhua quoted Ma Keqing, China's ambassador to the Philippines, as saying that China "has indisputable sovereignty" over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters.

"The Chinese side strongly holds that the disputes on the South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned through negotiations," Ma was quoted as saying after meeting a senior Philippine diplomat.

The Philippines has previously sought the support of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the territorial dispute, with ASEAN agreeing to ask China to start talks on a code of conduct.

But Beijing says it wants to address the disputes via bilateral talks. Its relations with Tokyo are also under strain after the Japanese government bought disputed islands from a private Japanese owner in September, triggering violent protests and calls for boycotts of Japanese products across China.

Manila said that any joint development with China should respect Philippine laws. A unit of Philippine firm Philex Petroleum Corp is hoping to resume talks with Chinese state-owned offshore oil producer CNOOC on joint exploration of oil and gas fields in the South China Sea.

(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco in MANILA and Koh Gui Qing in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie and Ron Popeski)

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Comments (4)
Free_Pacific wrote:
“But it was not clear how the tribunal can help. While all its decisions are binding on countries concerned, it has no power to enforce them.”

It does not matter. Ignoring a binding arbitration will will show once and for all the contempt this country has for those, as they put it ‘Little countries’ (“China is a big country and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact.” – Yang Jiechi (Angrily) in relation to how China should deal with sea disputes with it’s neighbors).

Jan 22, 2013 7:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
herestp wrote:
“A unit of Philippine firm Philex Petroleum Corp is hoping to resume talks with Chinese state-own……”
It is like asking China to be nice to Philippines after Philippines takes the lead in annoying China and add to that renaming the area around the disputed islands West Philippines Sea. China is not going to cooperate for quite a while unless Philippines is seen by China as well behaving and perhaps China will give her a bone perhaps within half a year.The failure to settle is purely the result of an incompetent Philippines president who went to China last April and come back empty handed triggering more tensions. As a small country you cannot jerk a big country around using US support to intimidate China.

Jan 22, 2013 9:28am EST  --  Report as abuse
mgunn wrote:
The US hasn’t signed UNCLOS so its hard for UN council to support what one of the main members hasn’t even agreed to. The articles reference as Vietnam as an ally is a stretch: not only is Vietnam communist and an alleged human rights violator, but the US has killed FAR more Vietnamese than the French or Chinese ever did and while younger people may not remember, the older leadership does. BTW – the US has killed far more Filipinos last century than the Spanish or Japanese ever did. (China doesn’t even enter into that equation.)

Jan 23, 2013 1:24am EST  --  Report as abuse
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