Defense chief tells parties in SCS dispute: Avoid actions that may heighten tension

DND chief Delfin Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana has called on countries with contending claims in the South China Sea (SCS) to observe international norms and refrain from taking actions that may exacerbate the tense security situation in the territory.

The defense chief issued the statement on the occasion of the  fifth anniversary of the decision of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration that junked China’s expansive claims in the SCS, including on the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“On this anniversary, we once again urge all interested parties to heed the call for a rules-based international order and refrain from acts that may exacerbate the tense situation in the area,” Lorenzana said in a news statement issued on Monday night.

The statement, issued through Department of National Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong, called the ruling as a milestone “in our country’s history as it affirms our claim over the West Philippine Sea.” He also said the “award is final and executory.”

Lorenzana declared that the UN decision “provided not only the Philippines but the rest of the world, with a framework for greater cooperation and understanding of complex maritime conflicts.”

Consistent with Philippine national policy, he said, the Department of National Defense and the government would continue to seek all avenues “to achieve a peaceful and friendly management of all standing maritime disputes.”

The defense secretary welcomed the support of other countries, which considered the award as having the “force of international law,” while appreciating their serious concerns over “excessive maritime claims in the South China Sea.”

‘Incorrect’ photo

Meanwhile, Lorenzana branded as incorrect a photo that was used by the media to illustrate the violative acts of Chinese vessels of dumping human waste in the West Philippine Sea as claimed by firm Simularity, which used satellite images from the European Space Agency.

“The reported dumping of waste in the WPS is not true. That photo is from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia,” he said.

Simularity bared the disposal of sewage by Chinese vessels in the country’s exclusive economic zone during a forum by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute marking the anniversary of the UN ruling.

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