Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that Obama’s statement was “consistent” with the Philippine’s position over the disputes, which Manila had insisted should be resolved peacefully and in line with existing international laws.
“The statement of President Obama as embodied in the White House statement is consistent with the Philippine government’s position (that) any maritime dispute should be resolved under a rules-based regime of international law. Force should not be resorted to in any case,” Valte said over government-run dzRB radio.
She added that while the Palace “cannot predict” how Obama’s position would influence other countries, it was important to note that several countries had expressed their support to Manila’s stand to resolve the issue through a multilateral approach based on international law.
“We have gone through diplomatic channels and gone to the correct venue for settlement of disputes and advocated a peaceful resolution. We received widespread support for the position the country has chosen to take,” she said.
In a separate statement, the Foreign Affairs Department said it likewise shares Obama’s view on the dispute, adding that the agency remained firm in its position that all countries must follow what had been prescribed under international laws, especially the United Nation charter in the pursuit of peaceful resolution of disputes.
In a text message, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said that for claimant-countries to achieve a peaceful resolution on the dispute, concerned countries should not use force, or threat, but should instead adopt the mechanism under the UN charter.
“Our position remains that countries have an obligation under international law especially the UN charter to pursue a peaceful resolution of disputes, meaning without the use of force, (and) threat to use force. The way towards a peaceful resolution of disputes is through the dispute resolution mechanism under the UN charter including Part XV of UNCLOS, which is rules-based, transparent, binding and non provocative,” Hernandez said.
Obama made his statement during a meeting with Chinese officials on Friday in Washington.
In his stamen, the US president urged China “to manage its maritime disputes with its neighbor peacefully, without the use of intimidation or coercion”.
Reacting to Obama’s statement, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying in turn asked the US government to “live up to its promise to refrain from siding with any particular side” involved in the territorial dispute.
“China hopes the United States will respect the facts and not side with any particular party,” Hua said in a statement posted in China’s official website.
She added that after Washington released the statement, Beijing quickly reaffirmed its stance over the dispute before the 5th China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue ended on Thursday.
The Chinese envoy said that they emphasized Beijing’s determination to “safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights”.
Hua added that aside from protecting its “full sovereignty” over the disputed waters, China would only commit in resolving the disputes with the Philippines and other concerned parties through “negotiations”.
She said she is hopeful that the countries claiming the disputed islands “can keep their promises and properly handle the disputes through bilateral negotiations with China”.
“This is what we are advocating and also what we are doing,” Hua said.
She noted that during the dialogue, the US allegedly “pledged not to side with any parties” who were involved in the disputes.
The Philippines, the United States’ longtime and most significant ally in the Asia Pacific Region, has repeatedly waved its decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US as buffer against China’s aggressiveness in the region.
The MDT, which was signed on August 30, 1951, states that both countries are committed to come to each other’s defense in times of conflict.
In June last year, the United States reinforced its presence in the Asia-Pacific Region in the face China’s aggressive stance in West Philippine Sea.
China is locked in a volatile territorial dispute against the Philippines and Japan, two of the US important allies and strategic partner in the region.
Washington has also stepped up its presence in the region by launching a series of bilateral exercises between the armed and navy forces of the US and the Philippines which it said would increase its “interoperability, enhance capabilities through subject matter expert exchanges, and support local populations through community relations projects”.
In response, Beijing has reminded both countries that the exercises are focused in maintaining peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), and are not meant to contain a growing China.
In June, the DFA admitted that the Philippines and the United States conducted war games near the Panatag Shoal, which is now being controlled by Chinese maritime forces after the April incident triggered the standoff between Manila and Beijing.
Since then, Beijing had aggressively staked claim on practically the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) despite claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
Recently, however, Beijing and Hanoi had agreed to explore and share the resources on the disputed territories and even set up a hotline that would protect their fishermen from potential conflict.
Manila on the other hand has a pending case against China before the arbitral tribunal under the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea which is supported by the United Nations. Beijing rejected Manila’s action, and snubbed the Philippine government’s invitation to participate in the arbitration.