Philippines firm in South China Sea arbitral victory vs China


MANILA – The Philippines remains firm in its victory against China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea and would push for talks to settle the maritime dispute, a Malacañang official said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Manila would not be swayed from raising its arbitral victory even as Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said Beijing’s rejection of the ruling would remain.

“Neither are we changing our position too. But it doesn’t mean that as friends, we cannot discuss that issue,” Panelo told reporters.

“It has to be discussed that’s why precisely there’s a mechanism for negotiation,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte last week confirmed plans to bring up the landmark ruling with Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visits China later this month, his fifth as Philippine leader.

“We also expressed that we will not accept it and we will not recognize it. And that position has not changed, and will not be changed,” Zhao told reporters last week.

Panelo said the President “will not alter his position” on the issue too and would not bow down to China’s stand.

“What is important is as he promised the Filipino people, he would raise this issue at the proper time. And this is the proper time,” Panelo said.

The Philippines in 2016 won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.

It also made clear that the potentially oil-rich Recto (Reed) Bank was inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the West Philippine Sea.

China does not recognize the ruling and has instead ramped up its militarization efforts in the vital waterway.

Duterte has repeatedly faced criticism in the past for refusing to invoke the Philippines’ victory, which was handed down at the start of his term. The arbitration case was initiated by the administration of his predecessor Benigno Aquino III.