Beijing bid for talks a ploy — PH

THE Philippines on Saturday rejected China’s call for concerned countries to a dialogue and meet halfway on newly-imposed fishing rules and said Beijing’s call for a dialogue was only part of a long-term scheme to claim the entire body of water.

“The Hainan fisheries law is only one of the unilateral measures by China to force a change in the regional status quo in order to advance its...  position of undisputed sovereignty over nearly the entire (South China Sea),” according to Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez.

The DFA issued the statement after China announced its hope that countries involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea would meet Beijing halfway on the new fisheries law it announced in November last year.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the announcement only hours after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations expressed concerns on the recent developments in the South China Sea during the ASEAN foreign minister’s retreat in Bagan, Myanmar.

“[The foreign ministers] further reaffirmed ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea and the importance of the maintenance of peace and stability, maritime security, freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea,” said Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin.

Aside from the new fisheries law, Beijing also announced last month an Air Defense Identification Zone over the South China Sea that would hamper commercial flights over international waters.

“They called on all Parties concerned to resolve their disputes by peaceful means in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and urged continued self-restraint in the conduct of activities,” U Wanna Muang Lwi said.

“[The foreign ministers] called on all parties to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) to undertake the full and effective implementation of the DOC in order to build an environment of mutual trust and confidence,” the Myanmar foreign minister added.

“They emphasized the need to expeditiously work towards early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,”  U Wanna Muang Lwi added.

At the same time, Malacañang Palace on Saturday welcomed China’s willingness to dialogue and meet halfway on fishing rules in the disputed West Philippine Sea, but presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda pointed out it was the Philippines had already sought clarification from China on Beijing’s fishery rules.

“Dialogue is certainly good,” Lacierda said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan. “[But] We already made that move. We asked them. We wanted to seek clarification.”

Nonetheless, the Philippines would not recognize the new Hainan fisheries rule, just like Vietnam and Taiwan which had denounced the imposition as invalid and unnecessarily provocative.

The United States has also described the rule as a “provocative and potentially dangerous act”.

China’s southern island province of Hainan passed the rule in November and it took effect this year as tensions escalate over overlapping claims to the waters between China, the Philippines, Vietnam and other nations.

The Philippines has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with China involving disputed reefs and islands in the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea. China’s territorial claims overlap those of the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Hernandez added that China’s claim to the entire South China Sea was in “gross violation of international law.

“It is the core issue that must be singularly and fully addressed,” he said, calling on China to agree to have the issue brought to an international arbitration tribunal. With AFP

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