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China rejects Philippines' call to honor 4-year-old arbitral award

China on Monday rejected the Philippines' call to comply with the 2016 arbitration ruling that nullified its massive claim over the disputed South China Sea, calling the decision "illegal and invalid.”

At the same time, it reminded President Rodrigo Duterte’s government of a "consensus" it forged with China "on properly handling the so-called arbitration case" to repair the two Asian neighbors' strained relations.

The agreement, China said, "has laid down solid ground for the turning-around of bilateral relations."

In a statement, Beijing's embassy in Manila said "China does not accept or participate in the arbitration, nor does it accept or recognize the so-called award" won by the Philippines in July 12, 2016.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who has strongly protested recent Chinese acts of aggression in disputed waters, on Sunday publicly called on China to comply with the ruling.

It was the strongest statement so far made by the Philippines in commemorating the anniversary of the arbitral ruling handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands.

Locsin said compliance in good faith with the award would be consistent with the obligations of the Philippines and China under international law, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both parties are signatories.

"The Philippines, as a law-abiding, peace-loving and responsible member of the international community, reaffirms on this occasion its adherence to the award and its enforcement without any possibility of compromise or change. The award is non-negotiable," Locsin said.

Defying Locsin's call, China insisted its "territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea will under no circumstances be affected by this award."

"China firmly opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on aforesaid award," it said.

Instead of pushing for its compliance to the ruling, China said it hopes that the Philippines would preserve the "hard-won sound momentum of bilateral relations" and uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea."

China and five other governments - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan – are embroiled in years-long disputes over the South China Sea, particularly in its southern part, called the Spratlys.

Beijing says it has historic rights over the waters where huge minerals and natural oil and gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.

Analysts feared that competing claims to the South China Sea could become Asia’s next potential flashpoint for a major armed conflict.  

"In recent years, under the strategic guidance of the leaders of both countries, China-Philippines relations have maintained healthy and steady momentum, with exchanges and cooperation in various fields making continuous progress," the Chinese embassy statement said.

The two countries it added, should use the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea or BCM to resolve relevant issues through joint negotiation and consultation. -NB, GMA News