‘Bilateral talks best option to end sea row’

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THE Philippines should not rely solely on the case it filed against China at The Hague in its attempt to settle overlapping claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a political analyst said on Sunday.

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Bobby Tuazon, director for policy studies of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPeg), said the government can still pursue other options in resolving the maritime dispute with China even after receiving a favorable decision from the United Nations arbitral tribunal.

He noted that the Aquino administration should not limit its option to the “purely legalist-institutional” approach of the arbitration and should also be open to bilateral and multilateral talks with China.

“Even if the Philippine government pursues its petition against China’s sovereign claims at the UN tribunal, international law does not preclude the venue of bilateral or multilateral negotiations where the same issue can be resolved,” Tuazon pointed out.

The tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last week ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear merits of the case filed by the Philippine government against China.

The Philippines has insisted that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), which the Philippines and China ratified, should be used to resolve the territorial row over isolated reefs and islets.

Beijing refused to participate in the proceedings.

“The Chinese government’s refusal to honor the arbitral tribunal’s jurisdiction [over]the Philippine case does not mean that the tribunal cannot proceed with hearing the petition,” Tuazon explained.

He, however, said international law also cannot compel China to appear before the tribunal or to accept any ruling that will be issued after deliberations.

“Whatever decision that comes out of the arbitral arbitration is not mandatory to states,” Tuazon added.

It is for this reason, he said, that the Philippines should consider other options such as peaceful negotiations since history has shown that China was able to resolve several territorial disputes with other countries through bilateral negotiations.

But Tuazon noted that multilateral platforms such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) may not be viable in this case since not all member-countries are part of the maritime tussle or have claims in the disputed area.

He said the Philippines can hold bilateral talks with China considering that Beijing has been known to engage in such negotiations and some had been successful.

Since 1949, China has settled 17 of its 23 border and territorial disputes by negotiating with some countries such as Russia, India and Vietnam.

In these cases, Tuazon said, territorial settlements were reached, and in some cases, China ended up having less than 50 percent of the disputed territories.

He is not alone in his call on the government to consider bilateral talks with Beijing.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has urged the Aquino administration to initiate bilateral talks with China, noting that it is the best option to address the maritime dispute.

“We do not want war. Arbitration is not one that is going to be recognized by the Chinese. So it has to be negotiations,” Marcos explained.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua in July said China’s door for bilateral consultation and negotiations will be open forever.

But Malacañang maintained that the Philippines will continue pushing for a legally binding Code of Conduct on the South China Sea between the Asean and China.

Marcos, the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, noted that the Philippines is not going to lose anything by accepting the Chinese invitation to a dialogue.

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4 Comments

  1. What is the point of bilateral talks if China has already established their presence and constructed what they think will benefit them on those islands they occupied. Fist, the Philippine government must get the Hague ruling after which, The philippine government to start bilateral talks to China. If China to start talking again that they owned the disputed islands as ” their ours” then the Philippine government has to declare that the disputed island particularly within the economic zone of the Philippines were invaded by China. In that case, the starting point of talking with them is about our islands invaded by them. It is clear that our islands are invaded by China because it was occupied illegally.

  2. The Philippine Government has tried on several occasion talks and for several years now with the Chinese Government. But they have always insisted the the island is theirs. It is just right to go to UN and let the whole world know that our claim has it’s merits.

  3. all options to our advantaged should be open. first of all China should withdraw all its forces in the EEZ/ WPS and return the islets and reefs they seize in the past years before talks begin.

  4. I totally disagree such proposal at this point in time. Please read the recent transcript of the PCA where consultation among parties has to be sought before approaching PCA/UNCLOS. Now is the not time for negotiation for the following.

    1. You will be sabotaging the Philippine argument with regard previous failed discussion with china which is the primary reason why the RP sought the intervention of PCA/UNCLOS.

    2. The positon of China in the past discussion is very stiff from the beginning . Why? Because they know that they are in position of strength both militarily and economically.
    You don’t negotiation from the positon of weakness.

    3.Final and favourable decision by PCA/Unclos will give the Philippine strong legal backing in its claim that is globally accepted. This exercise opens the way for all parties to sort out what belong to them.This will give us better position in future discussion with China provided that Bongbong Marcos and you will not sabotage the Philippine positon through political circus in exchange for money.

    4. PCA/UNCLOS is the lasting solution for Philippines and the entire Asean region. As mentioned, the SCS issues is not confined to Philippines but rather to the entire region. There is no way the this issue can be settled bilaterally.

    5. When you cite the past successful negotiation between China, India and others. It is very naïve for you think that the same result will happen when Philippine negotiate with China. The countries you mentioned are equally powerful to inflict damage to china militarily. At the moment, China does not recognise the Philippines has such capability.

    This exercise has to be completed within the current generation of leadership to ensure the future security of our nation. Leadership in Philippine and China change overtime. If this SCS issue is settled with finality by PCA /Itlos, it will outlast the generation of leaders in both countries , then peace will prevail.

    Please read the articles, announcement of PCA and legal luminaries about this case. Sorry, I have to say that your proposal is stupid, hindi makabayan at walang katalinuhan. The information and sequence of events, argument and logic behind SCS are available at the internet. Our member of Supreme were very vocal about this both in local and global forum. Listen to them and learn. Don’t open your mouth without analysing the whole issue. Perhaps , you may have been drinking so much with China Ambassador in the Philippines. You should be investigated for that.