Philippines-China word war worsens

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Dismissing Chinese criticism that it was ¿insincere¿ in resolving the long-simmering dispute, the Philippines on Wednesday (August 3) said it would press its territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in accordance with international law at the United Nations.

The Philippines is ¿prepared to validate our position in accordance with international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), and we invite China to do the same," said Raul Hernandez, the foreign affairs spokesperson.

On Tuesday, the ruling Chinese Communist Party¿s flagship newspaper People¿s Daily said recent construction work by Philippine troops on a Philippine-claimed island violated the spirit of a preliminary agreement reached last month to resolve disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

¿Due consequences¿

It showed the Philippines had merely been putting on ¿a little show," the paper said in a signed editorial. China won¿t sit idly by while its territory is swallowed up by others, it said. China claims the South China Sea and all its islands as its territory.

¿Were there to be a serious strategic miscalculation on this matter, the due consequences would have to be paid," the newspaper said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Hernandez said the Philippines was committed to a ¿rules-based regime and to a peaceful resolution¿ of the disputes.

¿We maintain that what is ours is ours," he said.

China has said it prefers to settle the disputes through bilateral negotiations with other claimants.

The agreement reached between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) last month sought to lower tensions that have spiked in recent months over territorial disputes in the potentially resource-rich South China Sea between the Philippines, China and Viet Nam.

Use of force

Viet Nam and the Philippines complain that increasingly assertive Chinese ships have interfered with their oil-exploration efforts or bullied crews, something Beijing denies. Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have also laid claim to overlapping areas.

China has used force in the past to kick Vietnamese troops out of territory it claims, although recent disputes have largely been peaceful.

Hernandez said earlier it would take some time before the Philippines can elevate its West Philippine Sea claims to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos), the Hamburg-based court set up by Unclos to settle such disputes.

He said the government has to ¿first await the outcome of the Asean process before proceeding with our next move¿.

A panel of Asean maritime legal experts is reviewing the Philippine proposal to transform the West Philippine Sea into a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation. The panel is scheduled to meet next September in Manila.

¿The experts will make recommendations to Asean senior officials and ultimately to the foreign ministers at the sidelines of the Asean summit in November," Hernandez said.

He explained that through the zone of peace framework, the Philippines would ¿exploit what it owns and consider joint cooperation with other claimants in the disputed areas in accordance with international law, specifically the Unclos."

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