MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday said that it remained “positive” that the Philippines and China will move forward with their bilateral economic relations despite the arbitration case filed before the United Nations (UN) for the settlement of their disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“We are positive that we will be focused on enhancing our relationship as far as trade, investment, and tourism are concerned,” Assistant Secretary and DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez told reporters when asked about the effects of the case on the economic relations between the two countries.
Hernandez also reiterated the DFA’s view that since arbitration was a peaceful means of settling disputes, there should be no adverse effects on trade relations. He also noted that President Benigno Aquino III and former Chinese President Hu Jintao had previously agreed that “the bilateral agenda will be moved forward while we deal with these contentious issues separately.”
Hernandez also reiterated the Philippine position that it would push through with its case before the UN after China issued a belated appeal for the two countries to deal with the issues through bilateral negotiations.
“We have been doing that and we have exhausted that initiative and that’ s why we have decided to pursue the legal track…..We have been engaging them and exchanging views but nothing moved forward,” Hernandez said.
Earlier reports had noted that Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda had said that China’s appeal for negotiated settlement came too late for the Philippines had already filed a notification and statement of claim in the UN, and that the next logical step would be for the body to ask China to respond to the Philippine challenge.
China, in its appeal made through the Chinese embassy in Manila, had noted that the Philippine move would only complicate the issue, as it maintained its protest against what it described as the “Philippines’ illegal occupation of the islands in the seas.”
The Philippines had been pushing for a multilateral approach to solving the territorial disputes while China had consistently maintained that it wants settlement through bilateral negotiations among claimant states.
Hernandez, meanwhile, also noted that while the Philippines has moved forward in pursuing its legal track, the other approaches – political and diplomatic – would still be pursued.