MANILA The Philippines said on Friday it would exercise self-restraint in the disputed South China Sea after China attempted to block a small government boat from delivering supplies to soldiers in Second Thomas Shoal.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Manila would do nothing to raise tension in disputed areas while awaiting a ruling from the international court on its arbitration case against China over its nine-dash-line claims.
"The Philippines makes clear that it will continue to exercise self-restraint and will not raise tension in the South China Sea," del Rosario said in a statement.
"The Philippines is not the country that has greatly increased its naval and maritime presence in the South China Sea. Nor has it challenged freedom of navigation. Nor has it blocked or forcefully intimidated any other country in the South China Sea."
Del Rosario was referring to two large Chinese coast guard ships which tried last week to prevent the Philippine navy from rotating its troops and resupplying them at a transport ship that ran aground in Second Thomas Shoal.
Manila is seeking a ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to confirm its right to exploit the waters in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as allowed under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The claim questions China's "nine-dash-line" claim to most of the South China Sea.
China claims about 90 percent of the sea's 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq miles) waters. The sea provides 10 percent of the global fish catch, carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade a year and is believed to be rich in energy.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have ovelapping claims in the sea.
The Philippines is no match to China's naval capabilities in the South China Sea, avoiding any provocation and direct confrontation, particularly in Scarborough and Second Thomas Shoals.
"Countries should be judged by their actions, not by their words," del Rosario said. "We reiterate that arbitration is a peaceful, friendly and a durable settlement mechanism under international law."
Manila hopes China will participate in the legal process.
But China has rejected international arbitration and called on the Philippines to return to bilateral negotiations, warning the case seriously damaged relations.
(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Ron Popeski)