China ‘remiss’ as bilateral partner to PH, party to UNCLOS, envoys say

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 2) — China has been "remiss" in its obligations as a bilateral partner to the Philippines and as a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, two Filipino envoys said Wednesday.

They made separate statements in response to Senator Risa Hontiveros, who asked them about the presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea during their confirmation hearings at the Commission on Appointments.

"I agree with you that there are quite a number of points where of course China is remiss in being a good partner, bilateral partner to the Philippines," said Roderico Atienza, whose ad interim appointment as career minister was approved by the powerful CA.

Atienza, former Philippine Consul General in Hong Kong, is now director of a division at the Department of Foreign Affairs handling the West Philippine Sea and maritime jurisdiction.

He said the DFA did not lack in pointing out to China that "they have not exactly met our expectations," citing the involvement of its vessels in the illegal harvesting of giant clams and destruction of coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea.

Beijing has denied violating UNCLOS as it insists on owning almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea. It rejects the landmark decision of an UNCLOS-backed tribunal invalidating its sweeping maritime claims.

Deputy Permanent Representative Elizabeth Te of the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also shared her sentiments against China's actions but reiterated the diplomatic stance that the sea row is not the totality of the relationship between Manila and Beijing.

"China has not exactly been abiding by its responsibilities because China is a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and China has not been exactly implementing its obligations under the convention," said Te, whom the CA confirmed as chief of mission.

"Yes, China has been remiss and in fact in my meetings with the Chinese mission here in ASEAN, we have also emphasized that it is important that the situation on the ground in the South China Sea be taken into consideration," she added.

The DFA has filed several diplomatic protests against Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines is country coordinator for negotiations between China and 10-member regional bloc ASEAN for a Code of Conduct that will dictate the only allowable actions parties can take in the contested waters.