Palace rebukes China: Spratlys is ours
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Friday rebuked China and insisted that the Philippines own the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the strong statement after China said the Spratlys are within its territory as supported by “sufficient historical and legal basis.”
“While we concur with the Chinese official’s statement that the dispute can be best threshed out through peaceful negotiation and consultation between the two countries just as it will strengthen the Philippines-China relationship towards a solid partnership beneficial to Filipino and Chinese communities, the arbitral ruling, however, has already been rendered and we remain steadfast in maintaining our claims with respect to our territory and exclusive economic zones pursuant not only to the said arbitral judgment based on accepted principles of public international law but consistent with the directives of our Constitution and the aspirations of the Filipino people,” Panelo said in a statement.
The Philippines sealed a historic win against China before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague in July 2016, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims to almost all of the South China Sea.
The ruling recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in areas within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, which includes the Spratlys.
Hundreds of Chinese vessels, believed to be maritime militia, were recently spotted near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte had earlier told China to lay off Pag-asa Island while Panelo said Philippine sovereignty is non-negotiable.
“It is our principled stand that the peace in the West Philippine Sea should be maintained and that China should avoid performing acts that will place at risk the Filipino fishermen fishing in the disputed areas and at the same time cause irritants that will disrupt the current friendly relations of the two countries as well as imperil future bilateral negotiations on matters of mutual concern,” Panelo said.
As a matter of protocol, Panelo said, “we expect our Philippine counterpart, the Department of Foreign Affairs, to issue an official statement on the matter.”
Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. said earlier that he had “fired off a salvo of diplomatic notes” against China in March regarding the presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea. /ee
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