Palace hands off on China-US sea row

Published January 21, 2018, 5:11 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

The Philippine government prefers not to play any role in the current maritime issue between China and the United States despite the country’s claim in the Scarborough Shoal.

MB FILE—A file photo of Scarborough Shoal taken during aerial inspection conducted by the Philippine Navy with Manila Bulletin correspondent assigned to take photo. The Scarborough Shoal is situated at the West Philippine Sea, 198 kilometer west of Subic Bay with an estimated area of 150 square kilometers. It has rich maritime resources, which why Chinese ships are currently engaging in illegal activities within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. (Photo by: ERWIN G. BELEO) Manila Bulletin
Scarborough Shoal (ERWIN G. BELEO / Manila Bulletin File Photo)

The Chinese government has protested the US warship near the disputed Scarborough Shoal and expressed that the Asian giant would take necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in a statement, said Malacañang does not want to take part in the issue between the two world superpowers and believes the two countries can resolve it on their own.

“We do not wish to be part of a US-China intramural. The United States can take care of its own interest,’ Roque said this afternoon.

The Palace official maintained that the Scarborough Shoal is still part of Philippine territory.

“The Philippines’ claim over Scarborough Shoal is recognized under our constitutional law and international law,” Roque said.

The Scarborough Shoal is a triangular atoll located some 220 kilometers west of Luzon. In July 2016, the International Tribunal Court ruled in favor of the Philippines, citing that China has no historical rights on the disputed waters based on the nine-dash line map.

The US action is perceived as being part of its “freedom of navigation” operation in the South China Sea.

China’s protest against the United States came after more than a week after Malacañang said the Philippine government continues to trust China’s good faith in its commitment to not reclaim any islands or build infrastructures in the disputed portions of the South China Sea.

Malacañang’s comment came despite Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement saying that they will file a diplomatic complaint against China for retreating from its promise to not militarize artificial islands in the disputed waters.

Roque, in a press briefing in Cebu City last week, said the Philippines will continue to rely on China’s good faith on the South China Sea which has seven countries claiming portions of it as part of their national territory.

“The general thrust is to rely on the principle of good faith. The scope of this principle of good faith is in China’s commitment not to reclaim new areas or not to build new artificial islands,” Roque said.

“And so far, we believe there has not been any reason why we should doubt China’s good faith on the building, on its commitment to desist from making new reclamations or from building new islands,” he added.

Since assuming presidency, President Duterte has set aside the issue of the maritime dispute with China over the South China Sea to establish a good relationship with China.

Aside from the Philippines and China, other South China Sea claimants include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.