DND agrees with US: Rules-based order needed in South China Sea

Published July 14, 2020, 4:09 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Department of National Defense (DND) on Tuesday stated that it “strongly agrees” with the United States that there should be an order in the South China Sea (SCS) that is based on internationally accepted rules.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

To attain this objective,  Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged the Chinese government to comply with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling in 2016 which rejected China’s maritime claims in a major part of SCS, including portions of West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Lorenzana also encouraged China to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) to which it is a signatory.

“We strongly agree with the position of the international community that there should be a rules-based order in the South China Sea,” Lorenzana said.

“It is in the best interest of regional stability that China heed the call of the community of nations to follow international law and honor existing international agreements,” he added.

Lorenzana’s statements came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stood behind the Philippines and officially rejected China’s claims in the disputed waters.

“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo said that the US seeks “to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes” in the SCS.

“We share these deep and abiding interests with our many allies and partners who have long endorsed a rules-based international order,” he added.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines advised the US to “earnestly honor its commitment of not taking sides on the issue of territorial sovereignty” since it “is not a country directly involved in the disputes.”

Lorenzana hopes that the Code of Conduct in the SCS will soon be finalized to settle disputes and prevent the escalation of tensions in the region.

Tension between China and US has escalated recently after they sent powerful warships in SCS as if a show of military flex to assert dominance in the region.

China and the Philippines have overlapping claims in SCS along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Brunei.

However, the PCA in The Hague, Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines on July 12, 2016 and rejected Beijing’s so-called “nine-dash line” basis in its maritime claims in the SCS. 

Last Sunday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. commemorated the fourth year anniversary of the landmark ruling with an appeal to the Chinese government to adhere to the “non-negotiable” decision of the PCA.

In a separate statement, the Embassy said it does not recognize the South China Sea arbitration and its award to the Philippines since they were “illegal and invalid.” 

“China does not accept and participate in the arbitration, nor does it accept or recognize the so-called award,” its embassy said.