MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang yesterday rejected China’s renewed offer of bilateral talks to settle the West Philippine Sea dispute, saying only by engaging other members of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) can any negotiation on the issue be acceptable.
“The Philippine position is clear: the principle of ASEAN centrality should be recognized in accordance with the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC),” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters in a news briefing.
He was reacting to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua’s pronouncement on Monday that his country is “still open and will be open forever” to bilateral negotiations to settle its territorial spat with the Philippines.
The Chinese ambassador’s statement came a day before the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration was to determine in a hearing whether it has jurisdiction over Manila’s case contesting Beijing’s nine-dash-line claim. Hearings on the issue will be held until July 13.
“I think the best is to sit down bilaterally to talk. We need to resume our bilateral negotiation without any condition. I think this is the best way that we can discuss how to peacefully settle these disputes,” Zhao told journalists at his residence after the Chinese government donated books to the National Library of the Philippines, gmanetwork.com reported.