MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang appears unimpressed with Vietnam and Malaysia’s fierce stand against China over the maritime dispute in the South China Sea, saying that the Southeast Asian nations’ actions put the lives and safety of their people in danger.
A standoff between Vietnamese and Chinese forces has been going on for weeks near an oil-rich area within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The same activity was seen in May 2019, when a Chinese vessel patrolled waters near Luconia Shoals off the coast of Malaysia’s Sarawak State.
Asked if Vietnam’s move should serve as a model for the Philippines to address the West Philippine Sea dispute, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said: “It means also that Vietnam is risking an armed hostility between the two countries and risking the lives of their people.”
For Panelo, diplomatic negotiation remains the “best method” in addressing the issue.
“They [Vietnam and Malaysia] can do that, but there is always (a) risk…something disastrous. The President will not allow that. Rather than risk, the best method pa rin to solve the problem is through negotiation, diplomatic negotiations,” he said.
The Duterte administration has been criticized for shelving the Philippines’ arbitral victory against China’s expansive nine-dash-line claim to the South China Sea in 2016, in exchange for warmer trade relations with Asia’s largest economy.
President Duterte has also come under fire for a verbal fishing agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping, giving China access within the Philippines’ EEZ.
Duterte had repeatedly refused to make provocative actions in dealing with the long-standing territorial dispute with China, noting that the Philippines cannot match Beijing’s military prowess in time of armed confrontation. /je