MALACANANG on Wednesday asked China to change its decision of not joining in the arbitration proceedings, citing that it is the most peaceful way of settling their territorial row over West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
"We continue to urge China to reconsider its decision not to participate in the arbitration proceedings. We also reiterate that arbitration is a peaceful, open and friendly resolution mechanism that offers durable solution to the disputes in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea," Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, quoting the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a text message to reporters.
The Palace made the call after the international Arbitral Tribunal asked China to comment by December 15 this year on the case filed by the Philippines. China has refused to participate in the proceedings since the Philippines filed the case last year.
Meanwhile, Lacierda said the Philippine coast guard and fishery bureau will ensure that the country’s maritime resources are protected as the government awaits the resolution of its case against China.
"I think that is where we have made measures, both by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and also by our coast watch, to strengthen and to ensure our maritime resources," he said in a press briefing.
Lacierda was commenting on the concern of some environmental groups that the country's marine resources in the disputed territories could be depleted before the international tribunal makes a decision on the issue.
Eleven Chinese fishermen were recently caught poaching sea turtles off Palawan province.
News reports also said that black sand mining operations being spearheaded by Chinese operators continue in Zambales, despite a prohibition issued by the Supreme Court.
Lacierda said that the timeframe set by the tribunal is part of its rules in settling the dispute.
The Philippines filed a case in the international tribunal to clarify the rights and entitlements of each country under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he said.
"We are all signatories to a treaty or a pact and all parties should abide by the treaty—the treaty provisions that we all entered into," he said.
The Philippines has used the legal mechanism of arbitration to once and for all settle the conflicting claims in the South China Sea, the Palace official said.
The South China Sea, a major sea lane for trade and commerce, is believed to be rich in gas and mineral resources. Aside from China and the Philippines, other claimants include Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan. (SDR/Sunnex)