By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippine government is inclined to continue the peaceful dialogue with China to resolve the West Philippine Sea dispute rather than elevate the country’s 2016 arbitral win before the United Nations.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the suggestion of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to present the case before the UN General Assembly this week is futile since the UN has no power to enforce the arbitral ruling that nullified China’s claims in the disputed territory.
“It’s futile exercise. Why? Because UN has no enforcement power,” Panelo said.
Del Rosario had earlier urged the Duterte government to bring the arbitration ruling before the 74th regular session of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York City this week.
He said the UN assembly, where many world leaders are expected to attend, would be an excellent venue to present the country’s case “to reassert that right is might and the rule of law must be upheld.” The Philippines is slated to speak before the UN assembly next week.
Del Rosario mentioned the case of Nicaragua which lobbied the UN to persuade the United States to comply with a ruling of the International Court of Justice.
Panelo said there was other development in the case of Nicaragua.
“‘Yung, sina-cite niyang Nicaragua, o may nangyari ba doon? Wala naman. Ganoon pa rin, di ba? [He is citing the case of Nicaragua. Did anything happen there? None. It remained the same],” he said.
The government, instead, will sustain peaceful negotiations with China to resolve the maritime dispute while pursuing other areas of mutually beneficial cooperation. According to Panelo, the President considers such government strategy with China as “effective.”
“He finds it effective ‘yong ginagawa niya ngayon. May impasse pero tinutuloy pa rin ‘yong usapan at the same time nakikipag-negotiate siya with respect to other areas of concern mutually beneficial to both [He finds what he is doing now as effective. There is an impasse but the talks are still ongoing. At the same time, he negotiates with respect to other areas of concern mutually beneficial to both countries],” he said.
The President recently raised the arbitral court’s decision that ruled in favor of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea dispute during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. He told Xi that the arbitral award is final, binding, and not subject to appeal.
Xi did not budge from Beijing’s position of rejecting the ruling and instead reportedly offered to give the Philippines a bigger share in the planned oil exploration in the disputed territory if it would set aside the award. Duterte claimed that the administration would “ignore” the arbitral ruling “to come up with an economic activity.”
The Palace quickly clarified that the government would continue to assert its rights over the West Philippine Sea and “not totally forget” about the arbitral victory in the territory despite China’s objections.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo assured the public that the government would not waive any right or consent that will undermine the county’s sovereign claims in the area.
“Setting aside doesn’t mean that we will abandon it. What the President means is that, as we have repeatedly said and as he has said too, the arbitral ruling is still subject to talks between the two countries. Negotiation is ongoing peacefully,” he said during a Palace press briefing.
“But meanwhile, we focus on other concerns that may mutually benefit the two countries,” he added.
In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled that China has no historical rights to the resource-rich waters. Beijing has refused to recognize the decision.
Manila and Beijing have so far pursued a bilateral consultative mechanism on managing the South China Sea dispute.