U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
By Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
United States Secretary of State John Kerry has called on China to respect the ruling on a case filed by the Philippines regarding disputed parts of South China Sea, saying it is legally binding.
Speaking to reporters during a joint press briefing with Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay during a two-day trip to Manila on Wednesday, that Kerry had said the rights of all countries should always be respected.
“We have made clear that the decision of the arbitral tribunal convened under the [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] is legally binding and that we expect the parties will comply with their obligations on the law,” Kerry said in the televised briefing.
On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in its petition against China’s “nine-dash line” claim on a large part of the South China Sea.
It said China had no basis to claim historic rights in the area, and that it had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights by constructing artificial islands and interfering with Philippine fishing.
China, meanwhile, has accused the Philippines of having “deliberately mischaracterized” disputes in the sea, declaring the court’s award “null and void”, saying it had no binding force.
On Wednesday, Kerry urged all sides to remain calm.
“We urge all the claimants to exercise restraint and to work to reduce tensions,” he said.
The U.S. top diplomat revealed he has told Yasay in their meeting that the U.S. appreciates the “very responsible and measured way” the Philippine government has responded to the decision.
“That has been important,” he said.
Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella later said in a media briefing that during a lunch meeting between Kerry and President Rodrigo Duterte the two officials had discussed issues such as terrorism, crimes, drugs, religious fanaticism and maritime security.
The duo also discussed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, a pact legally affirmed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday — the day Kerry arrived in the Philippines — that would, among other things, give U.S. troops and equipment wide access to Philippine military bases on a rotational basis.
Abella said Kerry and Duterte agreed “whatever works for the Philippines will be what will work”.
He also disclosed that the U.S. official had committed $32 million to the Philippines.
“The U.S. committed $32 million in training and services… Basically it will come in form of training and stuff, law enforcement,” Abella said.