Whoever wins next year’s presidential derby should continue with the rule-based, multilateral approach that the Aquino administration followed in resolving Manila’s territorial dispute with China, a Malacañang official said on Thursday.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. reiterated that the Philippine government will continue to push for a legally-binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), as well as international arbitration to address the dispute.
“What is important to us is that words and action are in sync and we’re following that principle. Let them do what they want to do but as far as the Philippines is concerned, we stand by our principles,” he pointed out in Filipino.
According to Coloma, President Benigno Aquino 3rd “is resolute in advocating continuity of principled foreign policy, a rule-based approach anchored upon international law and the primacy of attaining regional peace and stability.”
Such approach “has gained broad-based support from the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” he said, adding that it is, thus, “imperative that the next President and administration carry on with even greater determination so that the principle of ‘right is might’ will prevail.”
“The next administration should also take into consideration the repercussions of the dispute to our country and to our economy,” Coloma said.
He added that the Aquino administration’s stance has gained support from the international community.
Malacanang, moreover, renewed its call for China to stop all its construction activities in contested areas in the South China Sea, as it noted Beijing’s violation of the 2002 Asean-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties there.
“Beyond halt to reclamation [works], the Philippines’ position includes halt to construction and halt to all actions that escalate tension in the West Philippine Sea,” Coloma said.
On Wednesday, a report quoted Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying that Beijing had stopped the reclamation activities as his country faced mounting calls from the international community to stop such activities in the disputed areas.
But the report noted that in June, China said it would soon complete some of its reclamation works in the Spratlys (Kalayaan islands), while adding that it would continue to build facilities on man-made islands there.
Meanwhile, a Defense department official said while Manila welcomes Beijing’s claim that it has stopped reclamation works in the disputed areas, it would be good if China would show “genuine proof of sincerity.”
“The best proof would be the pullout of all equipment as a clear and unequivocal manifestation of that announcement,” Department of National Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said also on Thursday.
“Nonetheless, a stop to the reclamation [works]doesn’t change the fact that they have violated the agreement among states, disrespected nations in the area and [also]violated our maritime rights, placing the region in crisis. Furthermore, the region would be glad to see a genuine proof of sincerity,” he added.
Galvez said mounting pressure from the international community played a major role in China’s announcement that it would halt the reclamation works in the disputed areas of the South China Sea.
“Yes, it played a very significant role,” he replied to questions on whether growing outcry from the international community forced China to stop its reclamation activities.
Countries that expressed their concern over such activities include the United States and Japan.
Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, also on Thursday said the announcement was “good news if it were true,” adding that any positive development may ease tensions in the South China Sea.