The Philippines has again rejected China’s latest bid to resolve a maritime dispute between the two countries through bilateral negotiations.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Tuesday, however, said that Manila’s position on the dispute should not affect relations with Beijing.
“Our position is clear: The principle of Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] centrality should be recognized because of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea between China and members of the Asean that was signed as early as 2002 and we continue to call for the crafting of a legally binding Code of Conduct,” he added.
The Palace made the statement in reaction to an apparent offer reportedly made by China’s Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua, who said opportunities for consultation on the issue “will be open forever.”
“I think the best is to sit down bilaterally to talk. We need to resume our bilateral negotiation without any condition. I think this is the best way that we can discuss how to peacefully settle [this dispute],” Zhao told reporters at his official residence in Manila a day before the UN arbitration tribunal in The Hague is to start oral arguments on the case filed by Manila against Beijing.
Coloma said the country’s focus is purely on its solid position in the sea row, which is international arbitration.
A five-man panel of judges will hear the oral arguments from July 7 to 13 to determine its jurisdiction on the issue.
Coloma said the process would last for three hours beginning 2:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Philippines).
On rejecting Ambassador Zhao’s offer, the Malacanang official explained that the relationship between the two countries “remains strong.”
“We celebrate this year 40 years of diplomatic relations,” Coloma noted.
He said President Benigno Aquino 3rd made this clear with former Chinese Premier Hu Jintao when the Philippine leader visited China in 2011.
“The countries’ relation[s][do]not only focus on the issues involving the West Philippine Sea [South China Sea]. We continue to enhance people-to-people programs and in many other fields such as in education and culture and economic cooperation,” Coloma pointed out.
He said while the Philippine government could empathize with its Chinese counterparts, “our focus is on our own position.”
“Whatever they feel, we don’t know. And since the Chinese ambassador has made such proposal, our response is that we faithfully believe that our bilateral relations with them remain to be strong,” Coloma added.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also on Tuesday said in a statement that it “does not recognize any claim to sovereignty over, or occupation of, these areas [in the South China Sea]by other countries, irrespective of the reasons put forward or methods used for such claim or occupation.”
“Whether from the perspectives of history, geography or international law, the Nansha [Spratly or Kalayaan] Islands, Shisha [Paracel] Islands, Chungsha Islands [Macclesfield Bank] and Tungsha [Pratas] Islands, as well as their surrounding waters, are an inherent part of ROC [Taiwanese] territory and waters. As the ROC [Republic of China] enjoys all rights to these island groups and their surrounding waters in accordance with international law, the ROC government does not recognize any claim to sovereignty over, or occupation of, these areas by other countries, irrespective of the reasons put forward or methods used for such claim or occupation,” the statement read.
Taiwan is considered by the People‘s Republic of China as one of its provinces that broke away from the mainland when Mao Ze Dong and his communist army took power in 1949.