Palace: Gov’t doing everything legal, feasible for West Philippine Sea

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang said that the government is doing everything legal and feasible to address the issue of the West Philippine Sea; reiterating that while the Philippines will not give up on its claim over the disputed waters, the reality is there really is a problem involving other claimants.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that 93 percent of Filipinos believe it is important for the Philippines to regain control of features in the West Philippine Sea.

Based on the poll, 74 percent of 1,200 Filipinos surveyed said they believe gaining control is very important, while 19 percent believe it is somewhat important.

In his Thursday press briefing, Panelo said all Filipinos should want gaining control over areas that are supposed to be the Philippines’. However, he said, the reality is that China claims to own the West Philippine Sea as well.

He said that since there are conflicting claims, the Philippines would seek diplomatic relations, and do everything legal and feasible for the country’s claim over the disputed waters.

“That’s the tact that the President has decided [to take]. Eh, kung makukuha natin sa diplomatic negotiations, lalong magaling (If we can get it through diplomatic negotiations, then good),” Panelo said.

“Hindi natin alam ang chances (We don’t know our chances of succeeding) but we’re doing it,” he added.

“Ang position natin, sa atin yun (Our position is that’s ours). That’s ours. We will do everything legal and feasible to assert our ownership over the same or sovereign rights,” he continued.

Panelo then reiterated the President’s stand that the Philippines cannot simply make a stand against China in the disputed waters because doing so may attract unnecessary danger.

“The reality again, as repeatedly said by the President, they (China) are in possession. Oh. Kung kayo yung nasa lugar niya, anong gagawin niyo? Susuong niyo sa panganib ang bansa natin at seguridad (If you’re in the President’s shoes, what would you do? Would risk the security of our country)?” he said.

According to the survey, 89 percent of Filipinos said it is not right for the government to leave China alone with their infrastructures and military presence in the disputed waters.

Duterte has been criticized for supposedly shelving the arbitral ruling which stated that the Philippines has rights over the West Philippine Sea. Recently, he was criticized for allowing China to fish in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) despite the constitutional provision protecting the EEZ and reserving its resources for Filipinos.

Early this week, Duterte said he will educate the people that what he did is not unconstitutional during his upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA).