Manalo: DFA will heed PBBM’s orders, continue to uphold UNCLOS and 2016 UN arbitral award

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Luis Enrique Austria Manalo has emphasized that his department would execute President Marcos’ ‘’marching orders’’ which is not to surrender a single inch of Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Appearing before the committee on foreign affairs of the Commission on Appointments (CA) yesterday (August 31), Manalo said the DFA would also continue to defend Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights and interest in that area.

‘’We want to maintain the South China Sea as an area of peace, stability and prosperity which can only be realised through rules-based legal order in that ocean,’’ he stressed.

‘’We will continue to uphold the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 (UN) arbitral award,’’ he added.

China has rejected the arbitral ruling which rejected China’s ‘’historical’’ rights over most parts of the South China. The WPS is in the WPS.

Answering questions fielded by CA members who come from the Senate and the House of Representatives, Manalo, a career DFA official, said the search for oil and gas in the WPS us a ‘’priority.’’

Manalo said the Philippines has signified its interest to China ‘’entering into talks on how we can develop oil and gas.’’

‘’We had talks before but they did not progress,’’ he said.

‘’The Philippines is open to talks specially (since the Philippines) need now and for the long term,’’ Manalo said in reference to high import cost of crude oil caused by several factors, including the Ukraine-Russia war.

The DFA chief said it appears that it is only China that is interested in the proposed oil and gas exploration in the WPS.

‘’ (we are waiting for) China too make an approach (as it is) the only country that is interested,’’ he added.

Manalo has been in the foreign service for the past 40 years and his appointment as the top DFA official ‘’is a vote of confidence by the highest leadership of the Philippines in the career corps.’’

He said the DFA would help the President craft and sustain a ‘’truly independent foreign policy’’ and ensure that the ‘’national interests are advanced.’’

The committee hearing to determine the fitness of Manalo to head the DFA was suspended after presidential sister Senator Imee Marcos raised issues against the DFA.