THE Philippines fell seven places in the latest Global Peace Index report owing to the country's maritime dispute with China and ongoing military drive against rebel groups.

According to the report, the Philippines placed 141st out of 162 countries this year from 134th in 2014.

“The South China Sea remains a potential area for conflict, with countries involved in the dispute all showing a worsening of their scores in the 2015 index," the report said.

"The Philippines suffered from an escalation of internal conflicts between the government and rebel groups occurring late in the measurement period," it added.

The Philippines ranked second to the last in the Asia-Pacific region, besting only reclusive North Korea, which placed 153rd.

The Philippines ranked last in Southeast Asia, a group of countries that include military-controlled Thailand and Myanmar.

In a statement, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Philippines "has always advocated a peaceful and rules-based approach in resolving the issues concerning the West Philippine Sea."

The Philippines is sticking to its arbitration case pending before the United Nations-backed court in The Hague, Netherlands despite China's refusal to participate.

The Office of the Solicitor General is now preparing for the oral arguments slated July 7 to 13.

Over the past year, 81 countries have become more peaceful, while 78 have deteriorated.

The GPI measures the state of peace in 162 countries according to 23 indicators that gauge the absence of violence or the fear of violence.

Internal conflict, impact of terrorism, and perceptions of criminality are just some of the indicators which can be grouped further into three general themes: the level of safety and security in a society, the number of international and domestic conflicts and the degree of militarization.

The GPI was first launched in May 2007 by the Institute for Economics and Peace and is updated annually since then. (Jan Keanu Plantilla, UST intern/Sunnex)