Several Philippine Catholic bishops slammed China’s refusal to abide by a 2016 international ruling that invalidated Beijing’s “nine-dash line” claim.
The nine-dash line — at various times also referred to as the ten-dash line and the eleven-dash line — refers to the undefined, vaguely located, demarcation line used by China to claim parts of the South China Sea.
The international ruling marked its fourth year on July 12 with a call from the Philippines for China to comply with the ruling as an obligation under international laws.
The ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague affirmed the Philippines’ sovereign right to its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the award is “non-negotiable,” adding that the arbitral tribunal’s decision “represents a victory, not just for the Philippines, but for the entire community of consistently law-abiding nations.”
He said the country “reaffirms” its adherence to the award and its enforcement “without any possibility of compromise or change.”
In a Twitter post on July 13, however, the Chinese Embassy in Manila reiterate China’s position that “the South China Sea arbitration and so-called award are illegal and invalid.”
“China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interest in the South China Sea will under no circumstances be affected by this award,” said the Twitter post, which had been deleted later.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said China is “unreliable and cannot be trusted” when it comes to international commitments.
He said the Chinese government “does whatever it wants without considering the international community” or the “effects of its actions” to other countries.
Bishop Arturo Bastes, retired prelate of Sorsogon, criticized China’s “stubborn” behavior, saying “China thinks it rules the world by defying international bodies.”
The prelate urged the United Nations to give China “a sterner warning” and encouraged governments “to impose economic sanctions” against the country.
“Nations in the Far East should unite together to put pressure on China,” the prelate added.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga urged the Philippine government not to stop “asserting our rights” over the disputed territories.
“It is ours, we are sovereign,” said Bishop Santos, adding that the country must continue to enhance its capability to protect and preserve its lands and seas.
In a statement, the Department of National Defense said it “strongly agree(s) with the position of the international community that there should be a rules-based order in the South China Sea.”
“We urge China to comply with the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling, and abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas to which it is a signatory,” read a statement from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
“It is in the best interest of regional stability that China heed the call of the community of nations to follow international law and honor existing international agreements,” he added.
The Philippine government has been calling for the finalization of a substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to settle disputes and prevent the escalation of tensions in the region.