THE Office of the Solicitor General said Friday the Philippines will use diplomacy to resolve its conflict with China but “will not concede any of the awards given” by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which rejected Beijing’s “nine-dash line” claims over most of the South China Sea.
“The negotiations must respect the decision that was made. We will still use diplomacy as a first option, because we are neighbors with China,” Solicitor General Jose Calida said, adding that the Philippines will not sacrifice what it has obtained from the decision but “will also pursue diplomatic means… to convince China that we can co-exist peacefully.”
Calida said the PCA confirmed that no one state could claim an entire sea.
“The award is a historic win, not only for the Philippines… It renews humanity’s faith in a rules-based global order,” Calida said.
“The award opens a horizon of possibilities for all stakeholders. The award is a crowning glory of international law,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night said he was considering back-channel talks and suggested he might name former President Fidel V. Ramos as a special envoy to China.
Calida declined to say how long the Philippines would rely on diplomacy to settle its differences with China.
“We should understand [China’s] sentiments. That’s why we are still using the diplomatic card at this time… I believe this is the more peaceful way of settling this problem. We cannot put arbitrary timeframes,” he said.
“We will be patient, of course, and hopefully China will also show the same grace that we have shown when we did not, as wanted by some sectors of society, gloat about this ruling. It’s a sober approach to having won this momentous, monumental case,” he added.
Malacañang on Friday said that local fishermen who intend to fish near the Scarborough shoal should “proceed with care” after the Chinese Coast Guard blocked a group of Filipino fishermen from entering the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, despite the PCA ruling.
“They are cautioned to proceed with care,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said of the fishermen.
Abella said despite the PCA decision, the government was still “thinking through the right response.”
Filipino fishermen from Zambales were traveling with a news team from ABS-CBN on Thursday to the Scarborough Shoal when a Chinese fishing vessel tried to block them. A Chinese Coast Guard vessel also showed up to order the Filipino fishermen to leave.
The PCA on Tuesday blasted China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea and also rejected China’s “nine-dash line” claims that it enjoys historic rights over most of the body of water.
In Mongolia, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay raised the West Philippine Sea issue at the Asia-Europe Meeting, despite objections from China.
“The Philippines strongly affirms its respect for this milestone decision as an important contribution to the ongoing efforts in addressing disputes in the SCS. We call on all parties to exercise restraint and sobriety,” Yasay said before the 54 leaders of Asia and Europe.
He also assured the group that the Philippines will enforce the tribunal’s ruling through peaceful means, and continue to engage China to reduce tensions in the region.
Abella on Friday said Ramos has expressed reservations about accepting Duterte’s invitation to be a special envoy to China.
“Former President FVR did not decline but he did make a comment saying that he may be too old for a long term commitment. I think he said it in passing,” Abella said.
Ramos, president from 1992 to 1998, said Thursday night he was uncertain whether the incumbent President was serious or was just making a joke.
“I think he just made that in jest because I’m busy writing my legacy for young people and China is only one of my areas of interest,” the former president said. “I have not seen the offer. I was out of range when he said it.”
Earlier, Duterte broached back-channel talks through Ramos, as a special envoy.
“I would like to respectfully ask him to go to China and start the [backchannel] talks. But we do not also want to offend the United States. Why? Because we have identified ourselves as being allied with the Western powers. So there’s an interest which we should not forget: Our interest and the interest of our allies,” Duterte told his fellow San Beda College of Law alumni at the Club Filipino Thursday night.
“War, it is not an option,” Duterte said.
Duterte said protecting the country’s interests and those of its allies—including the US—would bring “a lot of complications,” including economic problems such as the possible closing of maritime and sea routes.
Incoming Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the country must “peacefully assert its power of control” over areas in the West Philippine Sea that fall under its exclusive economic zone, after the PCA ruled against China Tuesday.
He said the decision by the PAC in The Hague “validates the Philippine claim of jurisdiction over certain shoals, reefs and outcrops.”
He also called on China and other states to “respect such reasonable and objective ruling, which determined that China’s historical claims to 90 percent of the area had no legal justification.
Senator Loren Legarda said she hoped all parties would uphold international law, and expressed her concern over the destruction of the marine environment brought up by China’s reclamation and construction activities in the disputed territories.