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The United States on Tuesday expressed support for the Philippines' call for international arbitration in settling its territorial row with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). In a meeting with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario in Washington, US State Secretary John Kerry said "we support a code of conduct, and we are deeply concerned some of those tensions and would like to see it worked out through a process of arbitration."
"The Philippines is one of our five Asia-Pacific allies, and a very, very important relationship at this point in time when there are tensions over the South China Sea," said Kerry, whose remarks were posted on the US Department of State's website.
Del Rosario, on the other hand, said "we do have many emerging challenges in the region, which should be addressed." In a news release of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Del Rosario said he and Kerry "are committed to working together in order to be able to strengthen our treaty alliance and to be able to enhance our strategic partnership."
Last year, a Philippine military ship was about to intercept Chinese fishermen gathering marine species in the Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea when it was blocked by Chinese ships.
The Philippines has since haled China before an international body to arbitrate the matter.
The Philippines and China are involved in a territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands along with Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia.
US lawmakers' support for PHL
In January this year, a US congressional delegation visited the Philippines and expressed support for the country's decision to take long standing territorial disputes with China before a United Nations arbitration body.
The five-man US delegation led by Congressman Edward Royce (Republican, California), chairman of the House committee on Foreign Affairs, “expressed their full support” to Manila’s efforts “to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner and in accordance to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
“There were some discussion on the details of our actions and they were very interested in the merits of our arguments. They’re very supportive of it,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta told reporters after the US delegation met Philippine officials led by Del Rosario.
The US lawmakers’ backing was among the first foreign expression of support to the Philippine government’s filing last week of an arbitration case before the UN to try to declare China’s expansive claim to the South China Sea, part of which is known as West Philippine Sea. Washington meeting During Del Rosario's meeting with Kerry in Washington on Tuesday, he was accompanied by Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, Jr., Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, Deputy Chief of Mission Maria Austria, and Executive Director Rosalita Prospero of the DFA Office of American Affairs.
“I stressed that we are committed to seeing this arbitration through. There should be no confusion or any doubts about our resolve,” Del Rosario, adding that Kerry was one of its strongest advocates for the ratification of the UNCLOS in the US Senate.
Both Del Rosario and Kerry agreed to work together in the context of the ASEAN and other related meetings this year on addressing the situation in the West Philippine Sea through peaceful means.
“We agreed to work closely together, particularly in the coming ASEAN ministerial and summit meetings to maintain peace in the area and to resolve the disputes through peaceful means and in accordance with the rule of law,” Del Rosario said.
“I also welcomed Secretary Kerry’s commitment to work with Brunei, the current ASEAN chair, on the issue of the West Philippine Sea. Both the United States and Brunei know that the Philippines is committed to the arbitration case it has filed,” Secretary del Rosario said.
Kerry made this commitment when he met with His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei at the State Department on March 11.
Meanwhile, Del Rosario also thanked Kerry for focusing on the issue of the peaceful settlement of the West Philippine Sea when he was in the Senate. “Secretary Kerry was a moving force behind a Senate resolution on the peaceful settlement of disputes in the West Philippine Sea,” Del Rosario said. - VVP, GMA News