15 July 2013

China has stated that “the Philippines’ claim that it had exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful settlement of dispute is completely not true.”

The Chinese statement is baseless. For the record, we wish to present the facts as follows:

1.  As we had previously stated on numerous occasions, the Philippines and China have been exchanging views on these disputes in attempts to achieve negotiated solutions since the first “Philippines-China Bilateral Consultations on the South China Sea Issue” were held in August 1995. However, despite more than seventeen (17) years of consultations, no progress has been made.  

2.  Since intrusions in the Bajo de Masinloc started in April 2012 alone, we have had nearly fifty (50) consultations with China.

3. On maritime talks indicated by China in the ASEAN meetings in Brunei, we clarify that, in fact, the Philippines invited China to hold informal talks. This was held early last year, including a two-day session in Manila. Subsequent plans to meet further were overtaken by continuing intrusions by China, especially in Bajo de Masinloc since April last year.

4.  We had all along been indicating publicly our three-track approach of diplomatic, political, and legal tracks, including arbitration.

5.  Prior to our filing of the arbitration case, in contradiction with China’s declaration in the ASEAN meetings in Brunei that we did not signal a possible Philippine arbitration track, we did invite China to join us in bringing the issue to a dispute settlement mechanism to resolve the issue on a long-term basis. This was officially communicated through a note verbale dated 26 April 2012. In its official response to our note verbale, China stated that our proposal was a “none ground” issue and it urged the Philippines “to refrain from any infringement on China’s territorial sovereignty.” 

6.    Prior to this, on various occasions, we had verbally invited China to join us in ITLOS. In fact, during the very first official visit of Secretary Albert F. del Rosario to China in July 2011, he proposed to Chinese top leaders to jointly bring this issue to ITLOS for adjudication. During the visit, Secretary Del Rosario met at length with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi who subsequently brought the Secretary to meet with then Vice President Xi Jinping.

7.    Secretary Albert F. del Rosario visited Beijing three times with an invitation for the Chinese Foreign Minister to visit Manila for consultations. Up to now, we are awaiting a favorable response to our renewed invitations.

8.    In all of these dialogues, China has consistently maintained its hard line position of “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, based on historical facts. The Chinese unequivocal message: Tanggapin ninyo na amin ang buong South China Sea bago tayo mag-usap.  It has, therefore, become impossible to continue bilateral discussions on disputes in the West Philippine Sea with China on the basis of this rigid position. This led us to finally resort to arbitration under Annex VII of the UNCLOS.

The Philippines remains steadfast in peacefully resolving the West Philippine Sea dispute before the Arbitral Tribunal, which is now in place. We moreover reiterate that the Philippines adheres to the agreement reached between the leaders of the Philippines and China in 2011 “not to let the maritime disputes affect the broader picture of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.” END