The Philippines will not surrender anything to China even as Manila continues to find ways for the implementation of the ruling of an international arbitral tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s claims to almost the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Solicitor General Jose Calida said on Friday.
The UN-backed tribunal ruled on Tuesday that China has no historical rights to the disputed areas it claims based on its nine-dash line. Beijing said it will not honor the tribunal’s decision.
Calida made it clear that there will be no concessions to China.
“We value the award given by the [tribunal], and the Philippines will not concede any of the awards given to us,” he said.
“That is our baseline, you saw the map, that is to be respected,” Calida added.
With the ruling, he said, China should leave the area so that Filipinos can go back to their fishing grounds at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal).
The top government lawyer added that despite China’s hard stance that it will not respect
the ruling, the Philippines will employ diplomatic means to convince China to accept the ruling.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., according to Calida, will also articulate the Philippines’ position to world leaders.
“We will use diplomacy. I believe this is the most peaceful way of settling this,” he said, adding that President Rodrigo Duterte had set no timeframe for achieving results.
“We will be patient of course and hopefully China will show the same grace that we have shown,” the Solicitor General said.
China’s nine-dash line overlaps with waters also claimed by the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China had built artificial islands atop seven reefs in the area, inflicting severe environmental damage, the tribunal said.
Former President Fidel Ramos on Thursday was tapped by Duterte to lead bilateral peace talks with Beijing.
The European Union meanwhile urged China and the Philippines to settle peacefully their dispute over the South China Sea but stopped short of pushing Beijing to abide by the international tribunal’s ruling.
The watered-down statement, which came after days of arguments among member states, did not follow the lead of the United States in specifically calling on China to honor the decision by the UN-backed tribunal in The Hague.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the bloc’s member states “acknowledge” the ruling but said the EU does not take a position on sovereignty rows.
She added that the union “expresses the need for the parties to the dispute to resolve it through peaceful means, to clarify their claims and pursue them in respect and in accordance with international law.”
“The EU calls upon the parties concerned to address remaining and further related issues through negotiations and other peaceful means and refrain from activities likely to raise tensions,” Mogherini said.
The statement came after days of wrangling over wording as eastern EU countries, including Slovenia and Croatia which also have territorial disputes before the tribunal, diplomats said.
“Two member states (Croatia, Slovenia) have a principle problem with arbitration judgments,” an EU diplomat told journalists on condition of anonymity.
“It is a difficult balancing act. We have a legal position, but on the other hand we need China for a whole bunch of other topics,” he added.
China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters, despite rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbors, most notably the Philippines.
The row has embroiled the United States, which has deployed aircraft carriers and a host of other vessels to assert freedom of navigation in the waters — through which a third of the global oil trade passes.
The US put itself on a collision course with China on Tuesday when it described the ruling as “final and legally binding.”
Malacañang also on Friday said it will explore other diplomatic channels to finally put to rest the sea dispute with China, in case Ramos turns down an “offer” for him to be the country’s envoy for such mission.
“I suppose there are other ways of doing it [like]diplomatic channels,” said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella in a briefing with Palace reporters.
Abella added that Yasay will issue the government’s “official response” to the ruling handed down by the UN arbitral court in The Netherlands.
He said Ramos was “referred to” by Duterte as the man who can do the job of repairing strained ties between Manila and Beijing because the former leader is a “wise statesman.”
Ramos did not categorically decline the offer but stated that he may be “too old” for the job.
WITH JOEL M. SY EGCO AND AFP