Aerial photo shows construction activities undertaken by China on Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), including an airstrip, in a disputed area in the South China Sea. The Philippines and China are among several countries disputing ownership of the reefs located on the Spratly Islands. (Photo courtesy by VICTOR ROBERT LEE & DIGITALGLOBE)

MANILA – The Philippines is one with the international community in its position calling for a rules-based order in the South China Sea.

“We strongly agree with the position of the international community that there should be a rules-based order in the South China Sea,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a press statement Tuesday.

Lorenzana’s remarks supported the United States’ position calling as “completely unlawful” China’s claims on resources across most of the South China Sea.

He also urged Beijing to comply with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling issued four years ago and abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which it is a signatory.

“It is in the best interest of regional stability that China heed the call of the community of nations to follow international law and honor existing international agreements,” he added.

Lorenzana also called for the finalization of a substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to settle disputes and prevent the escalation of tensions in the region.

Pursued by the Philippines within the framework of the UNCLOS, the 2016 award ruled that China’s sprawling maritime and territorial claims within its so-called nine-dash line are illegal.

Citing this, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said Beijing cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim, including exclusive economic zone (EEZ), claims from Scarborough Reef, the Spratly Islands, and other areas in Philippine waters the Tribunal acknowledged as within its EEZ or continental shelf.

He added that Beijing’s “harassment of Philippine fisheries and offshore energy development within those areas is unlawful.” (PNA)