THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has maintained that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte remains committed to protecting the territorial claims and maritime entitlement of the Philippines but will pursue a friendly approach in resolving the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In a statement on Wednesday, the DFA said the Duterte administration believed that the dispute should be resolved further in a manner consistent with the spirit of good neighborly relations.
“President Duterte’s priority of regional peace and stability has led to the healthy environment of dialogue, cooperation, and development,” the DFA said on the first year anniversary of the ruling of the international arbitral tribunal on the WPS.
The tribunal, in its ruling last July 12, 2016, recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights over some 531,000 square kilometers of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the country’s extended continental shelf under the United Nations Convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS).
“The bold initiatives of the Duterte administration in pursuing an independent foreign policy have become a game changer not only in the geo-political landscape in the region but more importantly in the lives of our people,” the DFA said.
It added that through the adoption of positive neighborly relations, Filipino fishermen were able to fish again at the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal).
The friendly approach of the Duterte government has also brought investment and financial assistance commitments from the country’s partners in the region, including China.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano also said that the Duterte Administration was committed to its strategy to strengthen old allies and engage new partner nations.
“The Philippines shall remain an enemy to none and a friend to all in its pursuit of economic and political benefits for the country, including the long-term security and stability in the region,” he said.