Palace denies US hand in arbitration case vs China

Members of the Philippine team are seated at the Peace Palace in The Hague before starting oral arguments on the arbitration case against China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea.

MANILA – A Palace official on Sunday denied that the United States is meddling in the Philippines’ arbitration case against China over the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that the US was only expressing its support for the peaceful resolution of the dispute by urging parties to respect the rule of law and adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

“Sa lahat ng ating nasasaksihan, wala naman tayong nakikitang patunay sa alegasyong iyan sa paglahok ng Pilipinas sa mga international meetings katulad ng Asean, Apec at iyong US-Asean Special Summit na ipinatawag ni President Obama noong nakaraang Pebrero,” Coloma said in an interview on dzRB.

“Malinaw naman iyong pagpapahayag ng posisyon ng Estados Unidos na ang kanilang kinakatigan ay iyong mga prinsipyong tinalakay natin kanina, iyong kahalagahan ng paggalang sa rule of law, kasama nga diyan iyong batas na sumasaklaw sa mga karagatan o iyong UNCLOS,” Coloma added.

He also said that the US merely joined other countries in supporting the principles of freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight.

China’s Ambassador to the Netherlands Wu Ken said in a Xinhua report that the arbitration case filed by the Philippines in The Hague was “a legal monstrosity and reeks of hegemony from Washington.”

Wu, in blasting the arbitration proceedings, said that “abuses of international law and a hegemonic mentality have no place in any South China Sea dispute.”

The Chinese envoy also questioned Washington’s supposed “front stage” role in the dispute.

“What ‘freedom of navigation’ is to be defended by American warships patrolling near Chinese islands and reefs? They slap a label of ‘militarization’ regarding China’s right to build facilities on its own territory. Take a look at the frequent U.S. military exercises in the South China Sea, what are they doing?” Wu said.