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26 March 2015 – Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario strongly conveyed the need for the international community to uphold the rule of law in the South China Sea at a Special Forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) today, March 26, at Marco Polo Hotel, Pasig City.

Allow me to state at the outset that the maritime dispute between the Philippines and China goes beyond the issue of maritime entitlements. This is about the principled stand of the Philippines to defend its legitimate rights which are currently being violated. It concerns the international community’s commitment to uphold the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as the Constitution of the Oceans, which sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. It concerns the need to uphold the rule of law which is the bedrock of peace, order and fairness in modern societies,” Secretary Del Rosario said.

The Secretary was the keynote speaker at the Special Forum, which featured presentations by party-list Representative Francisco Ashley L. Acedillo and Association of Chinese Studies President and former ABC Beijing Bureau Chief Chito Sta. Romana. Professor Jose Antonio Custodio served as the reactor. There were an estimated 80 people in the audience composed of FOCAP members and representatives from the local media, academe, government sector and business community.

Secretary Del Rosario apprised the audience of developments on the arbitration case which was filed by the Philippines against China under Article 287 and Annex VII of the UNCLOS in January 2013. He recalled the country’s recent submission of a 3,000-page document containing supplemental arguments that “leave no doubt that the tribunal has jurisdiction over the case and that the Philippines’ claims, including in particular its claims concerning the ‘nine-dash line’, are well-founded in fact and law.”

“Even as the Philippines filed arbitral proceedings under Article 287 of UNCLOS, however, China continues to undertake unilateral measures that form part of a pattern of forcing a change in the regional status quo in order to advance and realize its ‘nine-dash line’ claim of undisputed sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea,” the Secretary added, referring primarily to China’s continued incursions in the West Philippine Sea and massive reclamation activities in disputed areas.

Secretary Del Rosario likewise highlighted the international community’s significant support for the Philippines’ advocacy for a peaceful and rules-based settlement of disputes in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law.

He closed his speech by emphasizing that “Even as we face a formidable challenge, we have the law on our side.  International law is the great equalizer. We are, moreover, in the right and right is might.”

As one of the premier media organizations in the country, the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines hosts regular fora with top officials and subject experts to discuss the day’s political, economic and social issues. END 

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