Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said on Tuesday that the Philippines pursues an independent foreign policy in its ownership claim of the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“Our position in the disputed maritime features of the SCS (South China Sea) or WPS is based on the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and not on the position, opinion, or support, or lack of it, of any country,’’ Pimentel, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.
Pimentel issued the statement to the Manila Bulletin in reply to the United States’ siding with some Southeast Asian countries having ownership over parts of the SCS and rejecting China’s historical claim over the vast SCS.
The Philippine government reiterated last Sunday its position that China should comply with the UN International Arbitration Court whose 2016 ruling invalidated China’s historical claim over most parts of the SCS.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the United States would treat Beijing’s pursuit of resources in the dispute-rife South China Sea as illegal, ramping up support for Southeast Asian nations.
It was the latest forceful statement by President Donald Trump’s administration to challenge China, which he has increasingly cast as an enemy ahead of the November US elections.
Pompeo’s statement goes further by explicitly siding with Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines and Vietnam, after years of the United States saying it took no position on individual claims
“America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law,” Pompeo said.
“We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region,’’ he stressed.
Pimentel, a former Senate President, said the Philippines has always acted as a responsible member of the international community of nations.
“If we are a member of an international organization or a signatory to an international agreement, the Philippines always exerts efforts to follow and to comply,’’ he said.
‘’We even follow the WHO (World Health Organization) during this (COVID-19) pandemic, as an example. Hence, as the Philippines is a member of the UNCLOS treaty, we expect all other signatories to the said treaty to comply with its provisions in good faith just as we do our best to comply in good faith,’’ he added.