The Philippines is watching with concern the “massive reclamation” being undertaken by China around contested islets in the South China Sea, the country’s foreign minister said in New Delhi on Wednesday, praising India for calling on all parties to abide by the rule of law on the issue.
The Philippines foreign minister Albert F. Del Rosario also said that the “world cannot allow China to claim the entire South China Sea”.
Addressing the Second Nehru-Rizal Memorial Lecture on “Challenges and Opportunities: The Way Forward for India-Philippines Relations” here, Rosario also remarked that the world appears to have “almost accepted China’s unilateral” reclamation activities in the South China Sea.
Rosario said the Philippines has gone for international arbitration and is hopeful of the outcome.
Manila has sought to settle its maritime disputes with Beijing under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.
During the Fifth East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kuala Lumpur in August, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh had said: “India hopes that all parties to the disputes in the South China Sea will abide by the guidelines on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.”
“We further support efforts for the early adoption of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea on the basis of consensus,” Singh said.
Rosario, in his address, said Philippines has been witnessing “unprecedented economic development” with growth at 6.3 percent over the past three years, the highest in 18 years. However, the tensions in the South China Sea due to China’s reclamation work and claiming the full sea as its own has led to tensions, he said.
He praised India for adhering to the international arbitration ruling on settling its maritime boundary with Bangladesh and also its land boundary with the neighbour.
Rosario, who earlier in the day met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and also co-chaired the Third Joint Commission with her, said both — India and Philippines — have placed strong emphasis on maritime security and on adhering to the rule of law.
He also said both the countries needed to step up their cooperation in the sphere of political ties, economic ties and technical cooperation.
Rosario said India and Philippines need to also step up their defence cooperation and can also strengthen technological transfer. He said there is also room for “effective bilateral cooperation in the naval sphere”.
He said while the Philippines wants constructive relations with China and respects its peaceful rise, it also hopes that Beijing can be “a responsible state”.
Rosario’s address comes a few months after Philippines Foreign Secretary Evan Garcia urged India to “be at the head table” in regional forums to ensure that Beijing adheres to international maritime laws.
The Philippines’ rising concern about China comes even as the US Navy is planning to sail close to an artificial island China has built by reclaiming the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Under the plan, a US Navy ship is to breach a 12-nautical mile boundary China claims around the structure, adding to mounting international tension in the region.
Besides, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also claim parts of the South China Sea, an important sea passage that is rich in hydrocarbons, fish and other important minerals.