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02/04/2013: US Gives Full Support to Philippine Arbitration Bid, Vows to Work with PH in Seeking Peaceful Resolution of West Philippine Sea Row

2 April 2013

WASHINGTON, DC (2 April 2013) – Describing Manila’s move to seek arbitration as a step in the right direction, United States Secretary of State John F. Kerry today assured Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario Washington will continue to work with the Philippines in seeking a peaceful solution to the conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea, particularly in the coming ASEAN and related meetings.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Secretary Kerry gave his full support to the arbitration efforts in his remarks before members of the press and later in his meeting with Secretary Del Rosario at the State Department this morning—the first between the chief diplomats of the two allies since the former senator assumed his new position early this year.

“The Philippines is one of our five Asia-Pacific allies and a very, very important relationship at this point in time when there are tensions over the South China Sea, where we support a code of conduct,” Secretary Kerry said in his statement before the press. “We are deeply concerned about some of these tensions and would like to see it worked out through a process of arbitration.”

Secretary Del Rosario said this after his meeting with Secretary Kerry: “We spoke at length about the situation in the West Philippine Sea.  Secretary Kerry emphasized the importance the United States gives to maintaining peace and stability in the area. More importantly, Secretary Kerry assured me that the US is committed to supporting the efforts of the Philippines to settle the disputes peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law.”

“I also updated Secretary Kerry on our arbitration initiative.  I emphasized its importance to the future stability of our region in particular and to the future efficacy of international law in general,” said Secretary Del Rosario, who was accompanied in the meeting by Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos D. Sorreta; Deputy Chief of Mission Maria Austria; and Executive Director Rosalita S. Prospero of the Office of American Affairs.

“I stressed that we are committed to seeing this arbitration through.  There should be no confusion or any doubts about our resolve,” the Secretary said, adding that Secretary Kerry is fully supportive of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and was one of its strongest advocates for its ratification in the US Senate.

Both Secretary Del Rosario and Secretary Kerry also agreed to work together in the context of the ASEAN and other related meetings this year on addressing the situation in the West Philippine Sea through peaceful means.

“We agreed to work closely together, particularly in the coming ASEAN ministerial and summit meetings to maintain peace in the area and to resolve the disputes through peaceful means and in accordance with the rule of law,” the Secretary said.

“I also welcomed Secretary Kerry’s commitment to work with Brunei, the current ASEAN chair, on the issue of the West Philippine Sea.  Both the United States and Brunei know that the Philippines is committed to the arbitration case it has filed,” Secretary Del Rosario said.

Secretary Kerry made this commitment when he met with His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei at the State Department on 11 March 2013.

Secretary del Rosario also thanked Secretary Kerry for focusing on the issue of the peaceful settlement of the West Philippine Sea when he was in the Senate. “Secretary Kerry was a moving force behind a Senate resolution on the peaceful settlement of disputes in the West Philippine Sea,” the Secretary said. END