Shutting the door to a negotiated solution, the Philippine government went its own way on Sunday pleading for international arbitration over its territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.
The legal ploy, though carefully designed, is doomed to failure. But by portraying itself as a victim "bullied" by China, Manila's ulterior motive is to gain international sympathy for its groundless claims, says a Xinhua commentary.
The Philippines has encroached on these Chinese territories for years. China's indisputable sovereignty over them can be proven by abundant historical and legal evidence, while its maritime rights to the waters enclosed within the nine-dash line in the South China Sea are upheld by history.
China has already made a statement in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 2006, pointing out that these disputes do not apply to the arbitration procedure.
Beijing has a legitimate right under international law to reject the call for such arbitration, which renders Manila's legal attack futile.
The Philippine government knows perfectly well that it is attempting the impossible. It simply wants to earn easy credit by posing as the "good guy" who is resorting to international law.
However, it should be noted that this self-proclaimed good guy has betrayed its commitment to reaching a negotiated solution to its disputes with China. This commitment is solemnly stated in the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, a key document signed by China and ASEAN countries to ensure peace and stability in the region. It is also contained in a series of bilateral documents to which China and the Philippines agree.
China has been consistent in its emphasis to have direct dialogue with relevant ASEAN countries to solve their territorial disputes bilaterally, and it has been working with the Philippine government to that end.
Manila's reckless push for arbitration will not only further hurt its relations with China, but also hamper the ongoing efforts to reach an amicable solution to the disputes.
As a close neighbor and trading partner of China, the Philippines has a big stake in the smooth development of their bilateral ties and it would be wise to return to the negotiating table.