The Department of National Defense (DND) will continue enforcing the rights of the Philippines in the disputed waters in the South China Sea (SCS) even if President Duterte decides to “set aside” the 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of a joint exploration activity with China.
“The Philippines is a rules-based state and a party to the United Nations Charter and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). We remain guided by the parameters of these instruments and adherent to our responsibilities under these treaties,” said DND Undersecretary Cardozo Luna during a forum hosted by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Makati Chapter in Makati City Friday.
Luna, who represented Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, pointed out that The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitral ruling is recognized to be “final and binding” and honored by the international community despite China’s non-acceptance, non-recognition and non-participation.
The ruling favored the Philippines claims in the SCS, and states that China had no historical rights in the disputed waters.
Furthermore, the Defense official said that China’s continued militarization poses a big risk on the freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the SCS.
“Freedom of navigation operations is at risk if China continues to militarize its reclaimed facilities in the area, as it will have the capability to deter peaceful passage in the whole of South China Sea,” he declared.
Luna admitted that the government’s security sector was in a “very challenging juncture” in the aspect of protecting the Philippine waters and upholding its territorial integrity and sovereign rights.
“There remains a valid security threat arising from China’s reclamation activities in the area which infringes upon our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” he said.