Manila pursuing economic ties with Beijing

Published September 24, 2020, 4:31 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

Believing the South China Sea dispute cannot be resolved within “our lifetime,” the Philippine government has chosen to “move on” with its economic relations with China.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr.

According to presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the government would set aside the territorial conflict and instead pursue other areas of cooperation with China, such trade and investments, for the meantime.

Roque affirmed the country’s relations with China after President Duterte raised the arbitral ruling on the South China Sea conflict in favor of the Philippines in his recent United Nations speech. Duterte, addressing the world body for the first time, said the arbitral award has become part of international law and vowed to reject attempts to undermine it.

“The President has been consistent. We will move on matters that we could move forward on including trade and investments,” Roque said during a televised press briefing Thursday.

“We will, for the time being, set this aside because I don’t think the resolution of the territorial dispute is forthcoming in our lifetime so hayaan muna natin. Nandiyan ang decision. Malinaw kung ano nakasaad sa international law (so let’s leave it at that. The decision exists. It is clear what is stated under international law),” he said.

Although the Palace appreciated the praises from various groups for the President’s UN speech, Roque pointed out that Duterte merely reaffirmed his existing policy on the West Philippine Sea and other issues. He said Duterte has been consistent in declaring that he would not surrender an inch of the country’s territory.

Despite such policy, Roque maintained that the country’s ties with China would not be affected.

“Dahil ito po ay mga kasalukuyang polisiya ng Presidente wala naman pong magbabago doon sa ating mga polisiya, lalung-lalo na doon sa ating bilateral relations with China  (Because these are existing policies of the President, there will be no changes in our policies, especially our bilateral relations with China),” he said.

In his first-ever address to the UN address, the President brought up the Hague-based court ruling that invalidated China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea. He said 2016 arbitral award was “beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon.”

China has refused to recognize the Philippines’ legal victory on the South China Sea.