PH to continue to ‘assert’ rights over disputed sea

Malacañang this week said that the Philippines will continue to “assert’’ its rights in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

“As we have said in previous occasions, the Philippine government continues to assert our rights over the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea in accordance with the 2016 Arbitral Ruling,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday, July 15.

“We have not waived nor have we relinquished these rights,” he added.

The statement came after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) mobile phone survey showed that around 70% of Filipinos believed that the Philippine government should exercise its rights over the islands in the disputed waters.

However, Roque noted that the arbitral ruling cannot be enforced, so the country is “looking at peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve the issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea.”

“Unfortunately, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) 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.

Roque also maintained that the territorial dispute does not make up the entirety of the relationship between China and the Philippines.

“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 said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, for its part, revealed that Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi “engaged in open, cordial, and fruitful discussions” during a video meeting on Tuesday.

“Both sides reaffirmed that contentious maritime issues are not the sum total of the Philippines-China bilateral relationship,” the agency said.

“With mutual respect, sincerity, and adherence to sovereign equality, both sides will continue to manage issues of concern and promote maritime cooperation in friendly consultation,” it added.

The meeting came days after the Philippines and the United States urged China to uphold the international law and to comply with the ruling by the PCA in The Hague that invalidated China’s claim over the entire South China Sea.

The DFA also said both sides agreed to further strengthen their strategic cooperation.
“Secretary Locsin reiterated the importance of continued dialogue to propel Philippines-China cooperation forward across various fronts under the ‘new normal’ brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.

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