China sea row ‘a balancing act’ | Global News

China sea row ‘a balancing act’

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 07:06 AM August 16, 2017

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The Philippines is trying to balance territorial sovereignty with other national interests in its foreign relations, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.

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“The work is a balancing act, your honors,” Cayetano told congressmen during a House foreign affairs committee hearing on Tuesday.

“The disputes, for example, in South China Sea is unlike [that in the] East China Sea. There are overlapping claims with Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan,” Cayetano said.

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Hostility or prosperity

“If we’re going to be aggressive against all of them, we will lose out in trade, investments and tourism,” he said.

Already, Cayetano said the Philippines was lagging behind other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in terms of trade with China.

Moreover, he said surveys revealed that 70 percent of Filipinos considered themselves poor and were mainly concerned with health, education, peace and order and other basic services.

“That is more or less the specifics of our national interest,” he said. “The basis of our foreign policy should take that in account.”

Besides, he said the 1987 Constitution already defined the scope of the “independent foreign policy” that Mr. Duterte wanted to pursue.

“The paramount considerations are national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and right to self-determination,” he said.

“As you can see, it is an enumeration. It is not a priority list. The Constitution directs us to ensure all four,” Cayetano said.

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“There’s no argument. We will not compromise our territorial integrity just to get tourists [and] investments.”

No sell out

“[But] we cannot go head on with other countries just for the sake of territorial integrity without thinking of the national interest,” he said.

Cayetano also belied claims that President Duterte has junked the favorable ruling the country received from the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2015.

“It’s not true that the President [junked] the arbitration award,” said Cayetano, explaining the President only decided not to take up the matter at this time in order to improve ties with China.

Cayetano asked lawmakers for a closed door executive session to show congressmen “some things that have been classified confidential or secret,” including the possibility of joint exploration and development in the disputed Spratly Islands.

“I will assure you, any legal framework will conform with local laws and the Constitution,” Cayetano said. —With a report from Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, maritime dispute, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea
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