Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 19) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr. and his US counterpart recently talked about reinforcing the “binding nature” of the Philippines’ arbitration win in the South China Sea dispute, the US Department of State disclosed on Saturday.
Locsin also announced his “great phone conversation” with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Friday night. In a tweet, he said the top Washington official committed to try his best to help the Philippines secure COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer following an allegedly bungled deal.
Pompeo, in a separate tweet, chose to highlight their talk about the Philippines and America’s “shared interests” in the South China Sea.
“Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Locsin discussed opportunities to further reinforce the U.S.-Philippine alliance and the binding nature of the 2016 arbitral tribunal award on all parties in the South China Sea,” the US Department of State said in a brief statement posted on its website.
“The two secretaries also discussed the economic, security, democratic, and people-to-people ties that make up the strong bond between our two countries,” it added, without going into detail.
In 2016, an arbitral tribunal in The Hague recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in areas within its exclusive economic zone that China contests. Manila calls the areas it claims as the West Philippine Sea.
The arbitral ruling junked Beijing’s sweeping claim to almost the entire South China Sea and said Chinese forces violated the Philippines’ rights when they built artificial islands, blocked Filipino fishermen from fishing, and interfered in petroleum exploration in the West Philippine Sea. While the US does not claim any part of the vast global waterway, it conducts freedom of navigation operations and calls most of Beijing’s claims “unlawful.”
The arbitral tribunal was constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the Philippines and China both signed in 1982 and 1994, respectively, but Beijing refuses to recognize the landmark decision. President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to set it aside to pursue other areas for cooperation, including the planned oil and gas exploration in contested areas.
Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio is urging the government to propose an enforcement mechanism, probably in the form of sanctions, in the absence of a ”world policeman” to enforce arbitral rulings. By Eimor Santos, CNN Philippines