The Philippines will challenge China's claim to most of the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea at a United Nations tribunal, its Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) disclosed in a statement Tuesday.
The row between Manila and Beijing escalated in April last year, when government vessels from both sides faced off for several weeks at the Scarborough Shoal. The area around the Scarborough Shoal is widely believed to contain massive gas reserves, and has consequently drawn strong interest from both the Philippines and China.
"This afternoon, the Philippines has taken the step of bringing China before an arbitral tribunal under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in order to achieve a peaceful and durable solution over the West Philippine Sea," the DFA said.
"The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China. We hope that the arbitral proceedings [will] bring this dispute to a durable solution," the DFA added.
Manila told Beijing's ambassador Tuesday about its decision to take China to arbitration under UNCLOS.
It is however clear that China is unwilling to participate in the process. The country, through the state-controlled Xinhuanet, emphasized that it wants to continue on bilateral negotiations.
"China has stressed bilateral talks with the Philippines to settle the island dispute. The Chinese Government has always stood for a negotiated settlement of international disputes through peaceful means. In this spirit, China has solved territorial disputes and demarcated borders with some neighboring countries through consultations and negotiations in an equitable, reasonable and amicable manner," Xinhuanet reported Wednesday.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon told reporters Wednesday that the two countries should seek to resolve their issues through dialogue in a peaceful and amicable way.
"The UN is ready to provide technical and professional assistance, but primarily all these issues should be resolved by the parties concerned," Ban said, careful to avoid backing any country involved.