Manila: The Philippine government has refused to return the 25 Chinese vessels that were taken in the South China Sea (also known as the West Philippine Sea) and the case is to be resolved with the help of a third party, a local paper said.
"The disposition of the small boats will be in accordance with a legal process," Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario told the Star.
China has urged the Philippine government to respect the recently concluded China-Vietnam Joint Statement, in which they agreed to work bilaterally to resolve their disputes over contested claims within the South China Sea.
The China-Vietnam agreement should be used as a model in resolving disputes in the South China Sea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin told the Star, a hint that China does not want multilateral dialogue in resolving its disputes with the Philippines over contested claims in the South China Sea.
"The [agreement] demonstrates the resolve and will of the two parties, two countries and two peoples in enhancing friendly exchanges, expanding mutually beneficial cooperation, appropriately resolving disputes, forging ahead socialism and safeguarding regional and global peace, stability, cooperation and development," Liu said.
The Philippines has opposed the China-Vietnam Joint Statement, which was signed during the state visit of the Vietnam Communist Party Central Committee General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong to China on October 15.
The agreement has been seen by experts as a digression from the 2002 Code of Conduct signed by China and the ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian nations (Asean), that states disputes in the South China Sea should be handled multilaterally.
Despite China's agreement to the 2002 Code of Conduct of claimants in the South China Sea, it has always insisted on bilateral dialogues between involved parties.