By Philippine News Agency
The Philippines continues to assert its claims over territories in the South China Sea (SCS).
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. stressed Thursday that the government is not about to abandon the country’s territorial claims in the SCS.
Yasay also made a clarification on what he told the Commission on Appointments on Wednesday that the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration last year only covered whether or not certain portions of the disputed water are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone
“My position—and this is the position of the government, and this is the legal position also taken by the arbitral tribunal in its decision—is that the disputed territory in the South China Sea has never been adjudged to be belonging to any particular country,” he said.
Yasay maintained that the court’s decision was on “whether or not the South China Sea that we have claimed is part of our Exclusive Economic Zone, not our territory, because even as they have ruled in our favor overwhelmingly, this territory continues to be international waters.”
He explained there is “no decision” on both the claim of China based on the nine-dash-line and the Philippines’ claim of owning certain islands in this disputed territories.
“Therefore, the question about whether or not the Philippines own these islands or these features, or these areas or China ruling these islands, features, or areas has no legal basis under international law as yet,” he said.
He added that these will have to be determined by another tribunal of competent jurisdiction.
He stressed that the official position of the Philippines insofar as certain features it occupies such as Pag-asa island, is that “we have possession, legal possession of this territory.”
He said it “can bloom into ownership, can bloom into part of our territory” when the appropriate arbitral tribunal and international law will be able to make a determination on that basis.
However, Yasay asserted that if China were to engage in “provocative actions in encroaching into our 12-mile territorial limit” as is recognized under international law as part of Philippine territory, the Philippines “will have to make sure we will be asserting ourselves, defending ourselves, even using our force if necessary.
He further said that in filing the Philippines’ case before the arbitral tribunal, “we never raise the issue on who owns those features. We never raise the issue on whoowns that part of the sea that we have dispute with China.”
“And it is in that context that I have also said that the decisionof the arbitral tribunal did not pass upon the territorial ownershipof these features of the sea, but simply ruled on whether or not thisdisputed area in the context of the 1982 UNCLOS is part of ourexclusive economic zone.”
He added that the arbitral tribunal in fact resoundingly validated the Philippines’ position that it also said that the claims ofChina under the nine dash line has no legal basis at all.