G7 favors arbitral ruling as basis to settle dispute’

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THE GROUP of 7 (G7) nation’s mention of the 2016 arbitration victory of the Philippines over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) dispute indicates that it can be a basis for a resolution of conflicting claims, according to a maritime expert.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, was referring to the G7 member nations’ communique over the weekend during its foreign ministers’ summit.

G7 nations include Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The US has been very vocal on its stand over the dispute in the South China Sea.

In the communique, the G7 foreign ministers expressed “serious” concern on the situation in the East and South China seas, reiterating their opposition to any “unilateral actions” that may escalate tensions and undermine regional stability.

They also indicated that the July 12, 2016 arbitral award rendered by The Hague-based and United Nations-backed Permanent Court of
Arbitration (PCA) was a “significant milestone and a useful basis” for a peaceful resolution of disputes in the contested waters of South China Sea.

Batongbacal said the mention of the arbitral award indicated that G7 nations supported it as a basis for “eventual resolution” of the dispute.

“It also signals the G7 members’ interests in maintaining their diverse relations with the region and keeping it from being locked out through the dominance of any single power,” he said.

“It’s interesting in that it comprehensively identifies and encapsulates the G7 member nations’ interests in the SCS (South China Sea),” he
added.

Batongbacal cited several points made by the G7 nations, including voicing support for maintaining rules-based international order; call for noncoercion and peaceful settlement of the disputes; maintaining access in the South and even East China seas; ensuring that efforts toward a settlement do not prejudice interests of external nations; and environmental sustainability.

The G7 countries also expressed their willingness to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in observing freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

In July, Asean defense chiefs are expected to hold a ministerial meeting in Bangkok, Thailand where they are expected to discuss various issues surrounding the region, including maritime disputes and terrorism.

‘G7 favors arbitral ruling as basis to settle dispute’

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