THE Philippines’ decision in temporarily setting aside the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and pursuing a dialogue with China on the disputed waters has proven to be a “significant” move for the Duterte administration, according to analysts.
“I think it (ruling) is very significant because that is our bargaining chip with China that will be our basis to claim while China’s claim is based on history so we can agree to disagree,” retired General Victor Corpuz said during the weekly Pandesal Forum at Kamuning bakery in Quezon City on Tuesday.
Corpuz said that the Philippines, without giving away its claim over the WPS, could negotiate with China and work on strengthening relationship that would benefit both parties.
He said that the Philippines should not limit its focus on a few barren islands in the WPS and instead look at the situation on the global scale and other opportunities like the “one belt, one road” initiated by China.
Corpuz said that China was ready to go to war over the WPS, and if the Philippines would insist on the ruling without considering the interest of other parties, the country would end up getting nothing.
“We will end up fighting or attaining nothing. Why don’t we agree with China and to set aside differences for the rest of the century and pursue a win-win solution,” said Corpuz, an analyst on geopolitics.
Antonio Valdez, former education undersecretary, for his part doesn’t see the arbitral ruling on the WPS significant for the country considering that the Philippines couldn’t even implement it.
“How can it be significant when it is unenforceable,” said Valdez, an expert on diplomacy and foreign affairs.
He added that the ruling has been controversial from the very beginning because it was the US that has been pushing for it.
What is more significant is the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to pursue an independent foreign policy because it opened up a lot of opportunity for the country.
The Philippines, Valdez said, was lucky to have an independent-minded leader like Duterte because the country would be at war with China if the Philippine would pursue the position taken by the previous administration on the WPS.
“Now we are talking about development with China. US was never going to make us develop it is unable to and they want to control us ever since,” Valdez added.
The international arbitration tribunal in its ruling last July 12, 2016 recognized Philippines’ territorial rights over some 531,000 square kilometers of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the country’s extended continental shelf under United Nations Convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS).