In this photo taken Feb. 25, 2014 by surveillance planes and released Thursday, May 15, 2014, by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, a Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands at South China Sea, Philippines. The Philippines has protested China's reclamation of land in the disputed reef in the South China Sea that can be used to build an airstrip or an offshore military base in the increasingly volatile region, the country's top diplomat and other officials said Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The white arrow was added by the source. (MNS photo)

In this photo taken Feb. 25, 2014 by surveillance planes and released Thursday, May 15, 2014, by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, a Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands at South China Sea, Philippines. The Philippines has protested China’s reclamation of land in the disputed reef in the South China Sea that can be used to build an airstrip or an offshore military base in the increasingly volatile region, the country’s top diplomat and other officials said Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The white arrow was added by the source. (MNS photo)

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, Sept 23 (Mabuhay) – President Benigno S. Aquino III, in a policy speech he delivered here Monday, underscored the importance of following the rule of law in resolving the dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The question the Philippines is facing is whether the consensus of the international community, as embodied by laws such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) would be upheld in resolving these claims, President Aquino told students of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

All signatories to the UNCLOS have bound themselves to the equitable delineation of maritime entitlements, he said, adding that this UN convention grants countries equal rights as well as obligations.

“As a founding member of the United Nations, we believe that its covenants, such as UNCLOS, and institutions, such as its International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, provide the most rational, just, and respectful mechanism for countries to find harmony, despite their differences,” he noted.

Based on this principle, he said, the Philippine government drafted two tracks of action in addressing the dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

First, by continuously calling for the formulation of a binding code of conduct for the South China Sea, and second, through arbitration to clarify the maritime entitlements for all countries concerned.

“International law allows for a dignified and sustainable resolution to competing claims, as demonstrated by the recently concluded Bay of Bengal Maritime Boundary Arbitration,” President Aquino said.

The Philippines is one of the claimant countries in the West Philippines Sea. Other countries with competing claims include China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia.

This year, the Philippines filed a memorial before the International Arbitral Tribunal to strengthen its case.

China, which has refused to participate in the arbitration, has been given until December 15 this year to submit a similar memorial to the international tribunal. (MNS)