PH, US affirm support for rules-based maritime order in South China Sea

Published November 17, 2021, 4:18 PM

by Betheena Unite

The Philippines and the United States (US) seek to further coordinate diplomatic efforts in building an international coalition that supports the international law-based maritime order as both sides share the same view on China’s “expansive maritime claims” in the South China Sea.

STRATEGIC DIALOGUE — The U.S. and Philippine delegations to the 9th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue witness the signing of the Joint Vision Statement for a 21st Century U.S.-Philippines Partnership at the Department of State. (Photo courtesy of the US Embassy in the Philippines)

This is among the key points in the agenda of the two nations’ ninth bilateral strategic dialogue held on Nov. 15 to 16. Both countries committed to further deepen and expand their relationship through sustained engagement in all fields to address current geopolitical tensions, exacerbated by the prevailing pandemic, and contribute to regional and global peace and stability.

The US conveyed that it “fully stands by” its position on maritime claims in the South China Sea.

“We share the view that the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea are inconsistent with the international law of the sea as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and with the unanimous July 12, 2016 Award in the South China Sea Arbitration (The Republic of Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China), a decision that, pursuant to the Convention, is legally binding on the Philippines and the PRC,” the joint vision statement for a 21st century US-Philippines partnership stated.

“The United States and the Philippines affirm that the PRC cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim – including any Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims derived from Scarborough Reef and the Spratly Islands – vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that the Tribunal found to be in the Philippines’ EEZ or on its continental shelf,” the two countries added.

It was stressed during the dialogue that China’s “harassment of Philippine fisheries and offshore energy development within those areas is unlawful, as are any unilateral PRC actions to exploit those resources.”

Both countries expressed their support for compliance with the international law of the sea and are continuing activities and cooperation “to exercise and support safety and freedoms of navigation, overflight, and other lawful uses of the sea in the South China Sea and around the world.”

They also disclosed that they decided to launch a Maritime Dialogue in 2022.

Aside from upholding the rules-based maritime order in the South China Sea, both countries also consulted extensively on joint efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic, foster respect for human rights, and strengthen interoperability of the US and Philippine armed forces during the bilateral meeting.

The ninth bilateral strategic dialogue was attended by US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink and Assistant Secretary of Defense Ely Ratner, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro and Department of National Defense (DND) Undersecretary Cardozo M. Luna.