Manila has repeatedly protested what it calls the “illegal” and “threatening” presence of hundreds of Chinese “maritime militia” vessels inside its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. In its latest threat to China, the Philippines has hit out at China’s claims over the region as Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have also ompeting claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea, a conduit for goods in excess of $3 trillion every year.
Manila’s Top Diplomat Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a statement: “The Award conclusively settled the status of historic rights and maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.
“It declared as without legal effect claims that exceed geographic and substantive limits of maritime entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
He added: “It dashed among others a nine-dash line; and any expectation that possession is 9/10ths of the law.
“Because the mere fact of possession produces no legal effect, such as a territorial sea of any extent.”
Mr Locsin explained: “It benefits the world across the board. We do not see it as directed at any other country, near or far.
“We see it as it should be seen: as favoring all which are similarly situated by clarifying definitively a legal situation beyond the reach of arms to change.
“It puts this aspect of international law beyond the limit of prescription.
“The Philippines is proud to have contributed to the international rules-based order, to the affirmation of UNCLOS, and the strengthening of the legal order over the seas.”
The Philippines has again suspended a decision to scrap a crucial agreement governing US troop presence in the country, its foreign minister said on Monday, amid continuing maritime pressure from China.
The Pentagon welcomed the announcement from Manila – the third suspension of the decision covering the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that had been due to expire in August – but analysts said there would be disappointment in both countries that it was not renewed.
Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said the suspension would be for a further six months while President Rodrigo Duterte “studies, and both sides further address his concerns regarding, particular aspects of the agreement”.
The Philippines is a US treaty ally and several military agreements are dependent on the VFA, which provides rules for the rotation of thousands of US troops in and out of the Philippines for war drills and exercises.
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Having the ability to rotate in troops is important not only for the defence of the Philippines but strategically for the United States when it comes to countering China’s increasingly assertive behaviour in the region.
“The Department welcomes the government of the Philippines’ decision to again suspend termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
“We value the Philippines as an equal, sovereign partner in our bilateral alliance.
“Our partnership contributes not only to the security of our two nations, but also strengthens the rules-based order that benefits all nations in the Indo-Pacific.”