Ex-PH top diplomat backs US study challenging China's maritime claims

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 15) – Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario backed a recent study by the US State Department invalidating China's sweeping claims in the South China Sea.

Del Rosario, who chairs local think tank Stratbase ADR Institute, said the study - called Limits in the Seas No. 150 - "draws heavily from the 2016 Arbitral Ruling won by the Philippines in The Hague against China."

"We are proud to see that a small country like the Philippines is able to make that impact in the world, so that the Rule of Law prevails over China's continuing deployment of brute force," Manila's former top diplomat said in a statement on Saturday.

The US State Department study - a follow up to its 2014 report that debunked China's "nine-dash" - said there was no legal basis for China to assert "historic rights" in the South China Sea.

It also questioned China's claims to more than 100 features in the contested waters that are submerged below the sea surface at high tide, which - under international law - cannot be lawfully claimed or generate maritime zones such as a territorial sea. Some of these features fall within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

"Mischief Reef forms part of the waters of the Philippines but China claims Mischief Reef as if it were land territory - thereby artificially and illegally converting the reef as one of its air and naval bases within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines," del Rosario said.

The former secretary called on Filipinos to elect new leaders who will uphold the country's territorial rights.

"Confronting China over its illegal claims in the South China Sea is an intergenerational struggle. We should elect a government that would strongly fight for what is ours and for all nations to uphold the Rule of Law," del Rosario said.

CNN Philippines correspondent Tristan Nodalo contributed to this report.