PH to China: Stop construction, provocative acts in West PH Sea

MANILA, Philippines – With China's announcement that it has completed its massive reclamation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Philippines wants the economic giant to cease "construction" activities and other provocative acts in the disputed area.

In a news briefing on Thursday, August 6, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr echoed the view of Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and some observers that reclamation is only the initial phase of China's plan in the West Philippine Sea.

"Even if they had stopped [reclamation], which is still subject to verification, they did not mention the aspect of construction. Some observers said that the second phase is construction. So this has to be stopped as well. Most of all, any action that would escalate tensions should be stopped because we believe in the importance of a rules-based and diplomatic approach," Coloma said.

Coloma said the Philippines hopes that continued international pressure on China would make the economic giant  realize that “right is might” and not “might is right” in settling the dispute. (READ: Photos show China's 'massive' reclamation in West PH Sea)

“What is important to us is for words and actions to match and we suppose this is also what the international community values, maybe that is the reason why our position is the one earning wider support,” he said.

China announced on Wednesday, August 5, that it had completed its reclamation in the West Philippine Sea but would press on with its plans for construction on the newly-reclaimed islands. 

Coloma said the Philippines would continue to work with China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in crafting a legally-binding Code of Conduct to guide the behavior of different countries in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine official also noted the ASEAN's progress in approaching  the maritime dispute, citing the situation in 2012, when the regional bloc failed to issue a joint communiqué in Cambodia because of opposing views among the members due of pressure from China.

Coloma said the Philippines is no longer "a lone voice in the wilderness" in calling for adherence to international laws, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in resolving the dispute.

In April, ASEAN said in a statement that China's island-building 'may undermine peace' in the region.  In a joint statement on Thursday, August 6, ASEAN foreign ministers said that China's reclamation activities "increase tensions" in the disputed area. –