DFA wel­comes G-7 stand on West Philip­pine Sea

Business Mirror - - BM REPORTS - By Recto Mercene

THE Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs (DFA) on Mon­day lauded the Group-of-Seven (G-7) group of na­tions’ strongly worded state­ment that warned of mar­itime ten­sion in Asia, and called for the peace­ful set­tle­ment of dis­putes in the West Philip­pine Sea in ac­cor­dance with the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

“The Philip­pines wel­comes the state­ment as it un­der­lines the G-7’s abid­ing com­mit­ment to sup­port ef­forts to peace­fully man­age and set­tle the dis­putes in the South China Sea in ac­cor­dance with the 1982 UN Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea, through mech­a­nisms rec­og­nized by in­ter­na­tional law, in­clud­ing le­gal pro­ce­dures such as ar­bi­tra­tion,” the DFA said in a state­ment.

“The Philip­pines re­it­er­ates that it will fully re­spect the out­come of the tri­bunal process in good faith.”

“We con­sider the G-7’s po­si­tion to be of crit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, as the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity awaits the out­come of the ar­bi­tral process that was ini­ti­ated in 2013 with re­spect to the South China Sea,” the DFA added.

“The G-7’s con­sis­tent and firm po­si­tion on this mat­ter re­flects the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s un­der­stand­ing and sup­port for the Philip­pines’s prin­ci­pled and rules-based ap­proach for ad­dress­ing dis­putes in the West Philip­pins Sea.”

The G-7 in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries is­sued the state­ment in Ise- Shima, Ja­pan, dur­ing a two- day sum­mit that started on May 24.

G-7’s dis­cus­sions fo­cused on the global econ­omy and in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity.

Other sum­mit top­ics in­cluded ter­ror­ism, cy­ber­se­cu­rity and mar­itime se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing China’s as­sertive­ness in the East and South China seas, where the coun­try has ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes with Ja­pan and sev­eral South­east Asian na­tions, in­clud­ing the Philip­pines.

The G-7 state­ment did not men­tion China, although it was clearly aimed at the ris­ing su­per­power, which has con­ducted un­prece­dented land recla­ma­tion in the West Philip­pine Sea por­tion of the South China Sea.

None of the G-7 mem­ber-na­tions is a claimant to the dis­puted ar­eas, be­lieved to be rich in gas and oil de­posits and where some $5 tril­lion worth of trade sails through an­nu­ally.

The G-7 in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries is com­prised of Canada, France, Ger­many, Italy, Ja­pan, the United King­dom and the United States.

As ex­pected, China’s For­eign Min­istry strongly dis­agreed with the G-7 state­ment.

Lu Kang, a spokesman for the Chi­nese for­eign min­istry, noted that China was “strongly dis­sat­is­fied with rel­e­vant moves taken by G-7.”

Lu urged “G-7 mem­bers to abide by their prom­ise of not tak­ing sides on ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes, re­spect the ef­forts by re­gional coun­tries, stop all ir­re­spon­si­ble words and ac­tions, and make con­struc­tive con­tri­bu­tion to re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity.”

“Given the slug­gish global eco­nomic re­cov­ery at the mo­ment, G-7 should have fo­cused on global eco­nomic gov­er­nance and co­op­er­a­tion in­stead of hyp­ing up mar­itime is­sues and fu­el­ing ten­sions in the re­gion,” Lu added.

China’s ve­he­ment re­ac­tion comes at a time when the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­ta­tion in The Hague is ex­pected to come out with a rul­ing, fol­low­ing three years of ar­bi­tra­tion.

China, from the start, has said it will not re­spect the rul­ing.

Dur­ing their meet­ing the lead­ers ac­knowl­edged they could ex­pect a firm re­sponse from China, but re­solved to present a united re­sponse as a sig­nal to na­tions that se­lec­tively ad­here to in­ter­na­tional law, ac­cord­ing to a G-7 of­fi­cial briefed on the dis­cus­sions, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, cit­ing of­fi­cial pol­icy.

“We are con­cerned about the sit­u­a­tion in the East and South China seas, and em­pha­size the fun­da­men­tal im­por­tance of peace­ful man­age­ment and set­tle­ment of dis­putes, the com­mu­niqué said.

Ja­pan is em­broiled in a sep­a­rate spat with China over un­in­hab­ited islets in the East China Sea.

“We reaf­firm the im­por­tance of states’ mak­ing and clar­i­fy­ing their claims based on in­ter­na­tional law, re­frain­ing from uni­lat­eral ac­tions which could in­crease ten­sions and not us­ing force or co­er­cion in try­ing to drive their claims,” it said.

Dur­ing the last two years, China has en­gaged in large-scale recla­ma­tion and top­ping these with run­ways, radar fa­cil­i­ties and other mil­i­tary equip­ment that has alarmed its Asian neigh­bors.

China is a ma­jor trad­ing part­ner for G-7 mem­bers and had warned against a fo­cus on mar­itime ten­sions at a sum­mit at which it was not present.

BLOOMBERG

A FILE photo from 2008 shows the beach on Philip­pine-oc­cu­pied Pag-asa is­land, the largest of the dis­puted Spratly Is­lands in the South China Sea.

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