The recent 2023 Group of Seven (G7) and Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) summits expressed support for the Philippines’ position to adhere to the international rules-based order in the South China Sea and to maintain peace and stability in the region.
The expression of support was relayed to Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil by Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koshikawa Kazuhiko through a letter sent on May 20.
Garafil said the letter contains Koshikawa’s report on the outcome documents of the recent summits hosted by Japan.
This developed as China on Friday defended its decision to deploy its own buoys in Philippine waters, saying they are doing it “in accordance with law.”
In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said it sees nothing wrong when Beijing deployed its largest beacon vessels to the West Philippine Sea, several days after the Philippines did the first move.
National Security Adviser Eduardo Año countered that the placement of navigational buoys in the disputed waters off the West Philippine Sea (WPS), saying it is “an act of a sovereign nation and is pursuant to the country’s obligations under international law.”
“As a maritime nation, it is imperative that the Philippines prioritize the maintenance of navigational safety to ensure the protection of our waters and the people who rely on them,” Año said in a statement.
He stressed that neglecting navigational safety can lead to catastrophic incidents resulting in accidents, loss of life, and damage to the environment.
“We wish to stress that safe and efficient navigation is critical tointernational trade and commerce, and any disruption to this can have far-reaching consequences.”
“Besides, our maritime borders are vulnerable to threats such as piracy, smuggling, and terrorism. Thus, maintaining navigational safety is critical to safeguarding the nation against these threats,” he added.
Citing Koshikawa’s letter, Garafil said the twin summits resulted in the issuance of “consequential decisions encompassing matters related to the Philippines.”
“The outcome document of the recently-concluded 2023 Group of Seven and Quadrilateral Security Dialogue summits in Japan strongly supported President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on his position to adhere to the international rules-based order and maintain peace and stability in the region,” she said.
Koshikawa informed Garafil that during the G7 summit, the leaders had reaffirmed their resolve to meet global challenges and further champion shared international principles and values.
To maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific, the G7 leaders had emphasized their commitment to strengthen coordination with regional partners, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Koshikawa said.
ASEAN is eyeing an economic-cooperation thrust in the Indo-Pacific.
Koshikawa, Garafil said, had also emphasized the G7 leaders’ stance that there is “no legal basis” for China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea (SCS).
Garafil said the G7 leaders had likewise expressed “strong” opposition to Beijing’s militarization in the SCS, stressing the universal character of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its pivotal role in setting out the legal framework in all activities in the oceans and seas.
“Significantly, the leaders reiterated the legally binding Arbitral Tribunal award rendered on 12 July 2016 as a significant milestone as a basis for peaceful resolvement of disputes between the parties. Furthermore, they affirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and agreed to foster resilience to economic coercion,” she said, based on the letter.
Nansha Islands is the Chinese name for Spratly Islands, which are part of the Philippines exclusive economic zone (EEZ), based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Ruling.
“China’s deployment of buoys in relevant waters of China’s Nansha Islands is an act of exercising its sovereignty in accordance with law,” its embassy statement said.
“It aims to ensure the safety of maritime navigation and operations and provide public goods for passing ships and countries in the region,” it added.
On May 14, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) installed five navigational buoys marked by Philippine flags in the West Philippine Sea.
The floating markers were placed off Patag (Flat) Island, Balagtas (Irving) Reef, Kota (Loaita) Island, Panata Island (Lankiam Cay), and Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef—all in the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratly Islands)—by the PCG’s Task Force Kaligtasan sa Karagatan (TF KsK) from May 10 to 12, according to Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea.
“The installation of these buoys, adorned with the Philippine flag, signifies the country’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This move highlights the Philippines’ unwavering resolve to protect its maritime borders and resources and contribute to the safety of maritime trade,” the PCG official said.
“Last week, four PCG ships and one Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel installed five cardinal mark buoys in the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone. These cardinal buoys will indicate the direction of safe waters to prevent passing ships from running aground in these shallow areas,” Ano added.
The installation of buoys with the Philippine flag signifies the country’s sovereignty and jurisdiction over its EEZ, Año noted. He said that the act of marking the boundaries with the country’s flag shows the unwavering resolve to safeguard its maritime entitlements and resources.
He said that the placement of buoys signals the Philippines’ commitment to promoting peace, stability, cooperation, and the rule of law in the region.
“It is not done with brute force but with deliberative action buttressed by international and domestic laws. After all, installing and maintaining navigational aids benefits not only our vessels, but also those of neighboring countries — promoting safe and efficient maritime trade and commerce for the benefit of all,” he concluded.
In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague junked the nine-dash claims of China covering the entire South China Sea and recognized the Philippines’ sovereignty in the area within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.