DFA welcomes G-7 stand on West Philippine Sea
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.
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.