Ex-Pinoy diplomats back PH-China talks

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A ruling by an international arbitral tribunal will in no way solve a bitter maritime dispute between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), according to two of the country’s former senior diplomats.

This assertion mirrored the ex-envoys’ backing of the position of the Duterte administration to resume the Philippines’ disrupted bilateral negotiations with China.

After all, the former senior diplomats said, the Philippines will not necessarily enjoy the expected favorable decision of the court.

Rosario Manalo, chairman of the High-Level Task Force on the Asean Charter and former Foreign Affairs undersecretary for international economic relations, noted that it is already late for the Philippines to compete its claim as China has already built artificial islands suitable for military use in the disputed waters.


“It’s a little bit too late because kinain na lahat ng mga [Chinese] lahat ng teritoryo. Hindi ba nagbi-build na siya [It’s a little bit too late because the Chinese have already eaten up all the territories. They have their building activities, right]?” she said in a recent chat.

Manalo explained that “under international law, the country who has physical control is the owner.”

She suggested that the two competing countries could undertake joint exploration and “share the fruits of the sea” to ease tensions in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

The West Philippine Sea is believed to potentially hold huge deposits of oil and gas.

It is also a rich fishing ground and a vital maritime route, where $5 trillion of annual global trade passes through.

China, according to Manalo, will agree to joint exploration.

“They will because they have to. Otherwise, matitignan siya ng buong mundo na, ‘Ano ka? Walang hiya ka talaga, ’no?’ [Otherwise, the world will see them as, ‘What are you? Are you shameless’]?” she said.

China claims nearly 90 percent of the sea though its nine-dash line, while the Philippines insists its rights to areas within 200 nautical miles of its coastline, under the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Manila in 2013 sought the ruling of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) to clarify its maritime rights.

But Manalo said the award will have no bearing if Beijing will not recognize the decision.

The only way to save the Philippines’ claims, she said, is to diplomatically talk with China and ask them: “How we can cooperate? If you keep setting plots against us, you are in effect hostile to us. Is that the demonstration of friendship on your side?”

Manalo saw no need for the United States to join the negotiations as it does not have any claim in the contested territories in the South China Sea.

“Hindi puwede ang multilateral talks… Ano ang keber ng United States sa atin? May posisyon ba sila sa teritoryo natin at China? Tayo lang at ang China ang may problema dun eh [We cannot pursue multilateral talks… What’s the interest of the United States in us? Do they have any claim to the Philippines or China’s territory? The problem is only between us and China],” the diplomat said.

Lauro Baja, former Foreign Affairs undersecretary for policy and Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, clarified that engaging in bilateral talks with China will not harm the Philippine case in the tribunal.

“You can’t resolve an issue without talking to each other,” he said in a separate interview.

“I have yet to hear an excuse or justification that going bilateral will prejudice our case in the panel. How? These judges are statesmen, they are learned. They know how to distinguish rhetoric, what is legal or what is reality.”

Baja noted that the question of territorial integrity or maritime entitlement will not be solved solely on legal ground.

“What the department [Foreign Affairs] or the Philippines may have missed is that they relied too much on the legal angle,” he said. “Second, we relied too much on the panel and we put all our eggs in the panel. We should have had more foresight like the others.”

Baja dismissed a recommendation of Ernest Bower, senior adviser to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, to elevate the Philippine case to the United Nations Security Council if China will not abide by the court ruling.

He also explained that China, as permanent member of the Security Council, will surely veto such move.

Therefore, Baja said, nothing will happen unless Beijing is inhibited by the Security Council.

“That’s suntok sa buwan [far-fetched]. Before you take a first step in the Security Council, you must have some informal informant. And in that first step, China will kill it,” he added, laughing.

“Of course, you can go to the UN General Assembly. But all you can gain there without manifestation of specifics is again a moral support to our position,” Baja said.

“But as I said, on matters of territorial integrity and sovereignty and maritime entitlements, there is no such thing as moral victories.”

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11 Comments

  1. Leodegardo Pruna on

    I go with the thinking of the Ambassadors. Going bilateral, in conjunction with arbitration, would hasten the closure and solution of the issue. Good that the Ambassadors said their piece on the issue. God save the Philippines.

  2. Death to Rosario Manalo!!! Death to Lauro Baja!!! Mga traydor!! binayaran ng China

  3. Juan T. Delacruz on

    The Diplomat mentioned in this article, Rosario Manalo, just expressing his personal beliefs and he should not representing the Country in any type of negotiations with China. Rosario Manalo fails to understand that if you let China do whatever it wants to do in South China Sea, can anybody predict what is China’s next move would be? What happens then if they redraw the ADIZ? As of now, the Philippine Economic Zone has been violated and the “Freedom of Navigation” has been restricted. The supposedly International Waters where any commercial or private ships and airplane can pass without restrictions no longer exists because Chinese Navy is in place to protect what they called their territory, challenging everyone getting close or have “forcefully” entered their territory. Chinese actions now in south China sea will have a “DOMINO” affect, and their next move is to claim PALAWAN as part China.

    To Mr. Rosario Manalo, Tahimik muna kayo, unless na binayaran din kayo ng China, katulad ni Sen. Trillanes. Si Trillanes po nagbenta sa mga Isla na yan, naghati sila ni PNoy. Kaya si Trillanes ay puro silip sa mga bank account ng mga ibang pulitika, pero walang ibang tao na makapagsilip sa bank account niya. Billionaryo ang mamang ‘to. Yung share ni PNoy ay nagastos na ng LP nung nakaraan na election.

    • They should not talk like that in the media. They were diplomats , i agree, but they were mere secretaries..maybe a corrupt one..They should keep their MOUTH SHUT! till we wait the decision of the Tribunal. Conditioning the mind of the people,,Mga binayaran eto,,,they can be charge with TREASON..

    • …dapat sana hindi na i pina published itong komento ni Mr.Rosario Manalo halata kasing may kinikilingan at malamang binayaran para protektahan ang interes ng mga tsekwa…medyo lumilinaw na rin sakin kong bakit sinabi ni DU30 na maraming bayaran sa media…

  4. If we accept it is too late and we can not do anything, we are just banking that China will give us a little something to pacify us and withdraw our claim? China is like a squatter in our land and now because they have built something, we can not evict them? At least the world will know how greedy they are and how they take advantage of the little guy.

    • China, is protected under LINA’s Law, since they are squatters on that area. Problem we cannot evict them without giving them a place to live. Better REPEL Lina’s Law na yan..Masyado na perwisyo, di lang sa Metro Manila na dumumi na dahil sa kanila,kaya ginaya na rin ng CHINA..LOL

  5. Neither can we solve if by having bicameral talks with China unless we agree to everything they want. Let’s wait for the UNCLOS ruling to give us a stronger hand.

  6. The Ph-China crisis was brought about by the incompetent Abnoy who knows nothing of diplomacy and foreign relations. This is what we get for putting a looney in Malacanang.

    • It started during GMA, Gloria pandak macapagal sold that area indirectly by allowing them inside that using using bilateral talk, Chinese see filipinos govt offficial as corrupt and can easily be fpp;ed..Thats why, when they knew these things, they got a guts to take this reef and make it as island for them…Manloloko ang Communist China.