MANILA: China warned Tuesday that the Philippines has “seriously damaged” bilateral ties by asking the United Nations to rule in their favor in a maritime dispute.
Manila at the weekend asked a UN tribunal to declare Beijing’s claims over most of the strategically significant South China Sea illegal, submitting nearly 4,000 pages of evidence to back its case.
It argues that the Chinese stance contravenes the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and interferes with the Philippines’ sovereign rights to its continental shelf.
“What the Philippine side did seriously damaged bilateral relations with China,” Charge d’affaires Sun Xiangyang of the Chinese embassy in Manila said in a statement.
“We find it very hard to understand these moves of the Philippines and we are deeply disturbed by and concerned with the consequence of such moves.” Both countries are signatories to UNCLOS, but Beijing argues that its provisions do not apply to the row.
The embassy statement urged the Philippines to “correct its mistake and come back to the right track of resolving the disputes through bilateral negotiations.”
China — which is vastly more powerful than any of the several countries it has disputes with in the strategically significant waters — prefers to negotiate with them individually, rather than in international forums.
Apart from China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea.
Sun’s comments followed a commentary in People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, denouncing Manila’s move.
Manila had “provoked China” by going to “so-called international arbitration, a move that is both illegal and unreasonable” and “an act lacking credibility,” it said.
Manila was attempting “to legalize its invasion of Chinese islands through the arbitration,” it added.
Corruption cases against senators
Philippine government prosecutors will file plunder cases in an anti-graft court against three senators for misuse of congressional funds worth billions of pesos, a breakthrough in Manila’s fight against corruption, officials said on Tuesday.
President Benigno Aquino, who took office in 2010 on a promise of good governance and battling graft, enjoys popularity ratings of more than 70 percent, but the Philippines remains one of the most corrupt countries in East Asia.
The three senators — Juan Ponce Enrile, former movie actor Ramon Revilla Jr and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, son of former president and Manila Mayor Joseph Estada — were found to have amassed 172 million pesos, 242 million pesos and 183 million pesos, respectively, from illegal kickbacks.
“The three senators took undue advantage of their official position to illegally divert their congressional allocations in exchange for kickbacks, with the projects turning out to be ghost projects,” the Office of the Ombudsman, an agency that investigates and prosecutes corruption, said in a statement.
Seven others will also be charged, including a businesswoman at the center of the corruption scandal involving “pork barrel” funds channeled to fictitious non-government bodies (NGOs).
The senators face life imprisonment and forfeiture of any assets they may have illegally acquired.
Manila loses about 200 billion pesos a year to corruption, or about 1.8 percent of economic output. It has drained government coffers and entrenched poverty in the Philippines, a country of 97 million people.
But under the Aquino administration, it has improved its image, moving up 11 places in last year’s Transparency International index. It now ranks 94th of 177 countries.
In 2012, the Philippines was ranked 105th, up from 129th in 2011.
After six months of investigation, a panel of anti-graft prosecutors found probable cause to indict the three men for misuse of their congressional funds.