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Palace: PH ‘not waiving’ maritime rights in South China Sea

05:44 AM July 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines continues to “assert’’ its rights in the South China Sea even as it pursues bilateral ties with China, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Wednesday.

“We have not waived, nor have we relinquished these rights,” Roque said in a statement.

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A Social Weather Stations mobile phone survey showed that 70 percent of Filipinos believe the government should assert its rights over the islands in the disputed sea.

In a case brought by the Philippines, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea on July 12, 2016. China has refused to recognize the ruling. Roque acknowledged that there was no way to ensure that the ruling was implemented.

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“Unfortunately, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling has no way of being enforced by the body which rendered it, so we must look to other means to resolve the dispute,” he said, adding that the Philippines has been resorting to “peaceful and diplomatic” ways to work out the conflict.

The territorial dispute does not make up the entirety of the relationship between the two countries, Roque said.

“We agree to disagree on the arbitral tribunal ruling and will proceed with our bilateral relations with China, especially on matters related to trade and the economy,” he added.

Closer ties

Since assuming his post in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has cultivated closer ties with China and put the ruling on the back burner.

He has also distanced the country from its traditional ally, the United States, which recently declared “unlawful” most of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., for his part, struck a conciliatory tone with his Chinese counterpart a few days after asserting that the 2016 arbitral ruling was “nonnegotiable” and should be complied with by China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi initiated the video meeting with Locsin on Tuesday afternoon, on the heels of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning China against its “unlawful” claims in the disputed sea.

The hourlong video call saw Locsin and Wang articulating their respective positions “in exchanges that were frank, open but cordial throughout,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

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The two foreign ministers reaffirmed that the maritime dispute over China’s encroachment into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea was not “the sum total” of the bilateral relationship.

‘Friendly consultation’

The DFA also said both sides agreed to continue to manage contentious issues and maritime cooperation “in friendly consultation.”

The statement reflected the administration’s placatory stance on China’s aggression in the disputed sea, and was an apparent turnaround from Locsin’s strong statement last Sunday on the fourth anniversary of the arbitral ruling.

“Compliance in good faith with the award would be consistent with the obligations of the Philippines and China under international law, including the [UN Convention on the Law of the Seas] to which both parties are signatories,” Locsin said.

—With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan

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TAGS: Harry Roque, maritime dispute, PH-China Relations, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea
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