Palace: Filing diplomatic protest, negotiations best ways to solve sea dispute with China
MANILA, Philippines — Filing a diplomatic protest and negotiations are still the best ways to solve Manila’s conflict with Beijing in the disputed South China Sea, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued this statement following China’s continued aggression in the disputed area, including poaching giant clams at the Scarborough Shoal and the presence of Chinese vessels, believed to be maritime militia, in Philippine waters.
On Tuesday, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and a group of fisherfolk from Palawan and Zambales asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of Kalikasan compelling government officials to enforce environmental laws in the West Philippine Sea.
“Well, the coast guards are there and then we have made diplomatic protests so I think we are doing our job,” Panelo said in an interview over ABS-CBN news Channel.
“Well, the petitioners must consider that there are serious considerations that must be taken up and talked off. You just don’t do drastic things. You have to do it cautiously. And negotiation is still the best,” he added.
Panelo, who is also President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said government has been protecting the environment in the West Philippine Sea but has been cautious in its moves in the disputed sea.
“[W]e are precisely implementing that (Writ of Kalikasan) by putting coast guards there. You protect the environment. But the problem there is precisely there is a conflict in the disputed area and if you do something drastic as in armed enforcement, it might provoke an armed conflict that might be too costly for us,” he said.
“The only way you can do that (prevent environmental damage in Scarborough) is to have coast guards there so that you can watch over the property, avoid or prevent people from doing damage to the corals,” he added.
Despite criticisms that the Duterte administration has been soft in dealing with China in the country’s maritime row, Panelo reiterated that government has filed diplomatic a protest against Beijing.
“You must remember that we already filed a diplomatic protest and I think that’s the best we can do as of now,” he said.
“We have already made our stand and we will wait for the response of China,” he added.
“Perhaps if they will not respond to that affirmatively then we have to do something more aggressive which may provoke as I said armed hostilities,” he added.
But Panelo reiterated that negotiations are still the best option to solve the maritime dispute.
“I think the best is still negotiations. We can still talk this over. We can tell them ‘stop doing that,’” he said.
But what if China ignores our protests and continues with its aggression in the disputed sea?
“[W]e will be forced at the risk of an armed conflict, even if minimal,” he said.
But he quickly clarified, “Again I will repeat: the best way is still negotiation. Negotiation is the best avenue by which we can solve any conflict in any area the South China Sea.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin Jr. has said that he had “fired off a salvo of diplomatic protests” against China but Beijing has yet to respond to these.
Despite the protest, hundreds of Chinese vessels, believed to be maritime militia, remains to be in Philippine waters.
So what’s the next best for the government? Panelo said, “And then we will wait for the decision of the President. The next best thing to do.” /muf
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