THE United States of America (US), Canada, the European Union Delegation to the Philippines (EU) and Germany have reaffirmed support to the Philippines’ claim in the South China Sea (SCS) as the country commemorates the fifth anniversary of its victory in The Hague’s Arbitral Tribunal ruling.
In a related development, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippines “do not see the Arbitral Award as directed at any country” stressing “but clarifying definitively a legal situation beyond the reach of arms to change.”
“The Award is the North Star that will keep us on course in the present, and that will point us back to the right direction in the future should we, in a moment of weakness or inaction, lose our way,” Locsin said.
He said the Philippines is proud to have contributed to the international rules based order, the the affirmation of the UNCLOS.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement said the US reaffirmed its July 13, 2020 policy regarding maritime claims in the SCS.
The statement said five years ago, the Arbitral Tribunal delivered a “unanimous and enduring decision” firmly rejecting China’s expansive claims as having “no basis on international law” as the ruling determined that the area is part of the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.
“The PRC and the Philippines, pursuant to their treaty obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, are legally bound to comply with this decision,” Blinken said.
He noted that “nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the SCS.
“The PRC continues to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway,” Blinken said.
He called on China to abide by its obligations under international law, to cease “provocative behavior,” and to reassure that China is committed to rules-based maritime order “that respects the rights of all countries, big and small.”
An armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the SCS would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, he added.
In a separate statement, Global Affairs Canada — in charge of Canada’s diplomatic relations — reiterated the need for all parties involved to comply with the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal five years ago.
“It is imperative that all parties in the region demonstrate restraint and avoid taking action unilaterally, as this would exacerbate tensions and threaten regional stability,” Global Affairs Canada said.
Canada is “particularly concerned” by China’s “escalatory and destabilizing actions in the East and South China Seas.”
These actions include the “militarization of disputed features and the use of naval, coast guard, and maritime militia vessels to intimidate and threaten the ships of other states.”
“We call on all states, including China, to live up to previous commitments made in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea,” Global Affairs Canada said.
On its official Twitter Account, the EU said that what happens in the South China Sea “matters to the EU, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and the whole world.”
“We further reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and the right of freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, as well as the peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with international law, in particular UNCLOS,” the EU said.
Anke Reiffenstuel, German Ambassador to the Philippines, said that the Philippines victory in The Hague confirmed the relevance of a rules based international maritime order in the context of increasing globalization and international relations.
“The entire world benefits from a peaceful, safe and stable SCS, an important maritime trade route, where international law including UNCLOS is observed and a rules based order respected.”