The Philippines is taking its territorial dispute with China to an international tribunal, raising the stakes in the political standoff among several countries with overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.
“The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime disputes with China,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said Tuesday, adding that the two countries have been expressing their views to each other since 1995 in an attempt to settle the dispute.
“To this day, a solution is still elusive,” Mr. Del Rosario said. He said the Foreign-Affairs Department summoned Chinese Ambassador Ma KeqingTuesday and informed him that Manila is asking an international arbitration tribunal — provided for under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — to declare that China’s South China Sea claims are “unlawful” under the convention. The Philippines hopes the tribunal will “achieve a peaceful and durable solution to the dispute,” Mr. Del Rosario said.
Beijing’s embassy in Manila responded, saying China “has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and its adjacent waters.”
“The Chinese side strongly holds the disputes on the South China Sea should be settled by parties concerned through negotiations,” it said.
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t have an immediate comment Tuesday night.
Beijing is becoming increasingly assertive in its claims over swaths of the South China Sea.
In recent years China has built and occupied structures on reefs that are part of the Philippines’ continental shelf. In February, two Chinese vessels blocked a Philippine ship conducting a seismic survey in the disputed area.
Rhea Sandique-Carlos,Josephine Cuneta Copyright (c) 2013, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.