PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte made a good call when he decided to set aside the ruling of the Permanent Court
of Arbitration (PCA) on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to pursue an independent foreign policy that includes strengthening ties with China, analysts said on Tuesday.
Retired general Victor Corpus said the arbitral ruling was significant because it provided the Philippines basis for its claim on the West Philippines Sea (WPS), it is best if the government will pursue a win-win solution.
“That is our bargaining chip with China, that will be our basis, while China’s claim is based on history so we can agree to disagree,” Corpus said during the weekly Pandesal Forum in Quezon City.
Without giving away its claim, the Philippines can still negotiate with China and work on strengthening its ties that would benefit both parties, he added.
Corpus said the Philippines should not limit its focus on a “few barren islands” and instead look at the situation on a global scale and consider other opportunities like the “One Belt, One Road” initiated by China.
“China built those artificial islands (in the WPS) for two reasons, first to prevent a naval blockade along Malacca straight and second to prevent a US submarine strike in China’s east coast,” the former military general said.
He noted that China is ready to go to war over the WPS, and if the Philippines will insist on imposing the tribunal’s ruling without considering the interest of other parties, the country would end up getting nothing.
“We will end up fighting or attaining nothing. Why don’t we agree with China and set aside differences for the rest of the century and pursue a win-win solution?” he asked.
Former education undersecretary Antonio Valdez agreed that the Philippines may end up in a war if it pursued the position taken by the previous administration on the WPS.
“Now we are talking about development with China. The US was never going to make us develop, it is unable to and they wanted to control us ever since,” Valdez said.
Also on Tuesday, Malacañang said relations between the Philippines and China have improved since an international court affirmed the Philippines’ maritime claim.
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella cited the ongoing bilateral dialogue between the Philippines and China as proof of progress.
Handed down on July 12 last year, the arbitral ruling invalidated China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea.
Abella said that in the first bilateral talks held in May, the Philippines and China reiterated “their commitment to cooperate and to find ways to strengthen the trust and confidence on issues related to WPS(West Philippine Sea).”
“The Philippines and China have reviewed their experience on the West Philippine Sea issue, exchanged views on the current issues of concern to either side,” he said.
“It’s excellent that we are now in dialogue with the other country,” the Palace official added.
with CATHERINE S. VALENTE