Philippines willing to share South China Sea – Yasay

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THE PHILIPPINES is willing to share natural resources with Beijing in contested South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) areas even if it wins a legal challenge next week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay told Agence France-Presse Friday.

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Yasay said President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China after next Tuesday’s verdict, with the negotiations to cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“We can even have the objective of seeing how we can jointly explore this territory, how we can utilize and benefit mutually from the utilization of the resources in this exclusive economic zone where claims are overlapping,” he added.

The Philippines, under Benigno Aquino 3rd’ previous administration, filed in 2013 a legal challenge with a UN-backed tribunal in The Hague contesting China’s claims to nearly all of the strategically vital sea.

China’s claims reach almost to the coasts of the Philippines and some other Southeast Asian nations, and it had in recent years built giant artificial islands in the disputed areas to enforce what it says are its indisputable sovereign rights.

The Philippines’ case enraged China, which repeatedly vowed to ignore the tribunal’s ruling and is currently holding military drills in the northern part of the sea as a show of force.

Duterte, who took office on June 30, has adopted a more conciliatory approach to China than Aquino.

No provocations

The previous president refused to hold direct talks, and likened China’s expansionist efforts in the sea to Nazi Germany’s march on parts of Europe ahead of World War II.

Yasay signaled on Friday that Duterte would be making no such analogies, pointing out that his administration would seek to ensure the best possible relations with China.

“I would like to be forward-looking on these matters,” he said when asked to comment on Aquino’s Nazi statement.

“I would like to make sure whatever actions this administration will take, the statements we will be making will be in the pursuit of strengthening our relationship with everybody and will be for the purpose of making sure there will be no stumbling block to our negotiating a peaceful solution to the issue,” Yasay added.

He said China and the Philippines had agreed not to make any “provocative statements” following the release of the ruling.

After the ruling is released, according to Yasay, the Philippines would study it closely, discuss it with allies, and then seek to launch talks with China “as soon as possible.”

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country’s exclusive economic zone falls within 200 nautical miles of its coast. A nation has sovereign rights to exploit natural resources in that zone.

Fish, drill together

Yasay said the Philippines was open to sharing Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone that China took control of in 2012 and has banned Filipino boats from entering it.

“It’s my understanding that in the long course of history, Scarborough Shoal has been the traditional fishing grounds not only for Filipinos but also for Vietnamese, Chinese. We can continue with this arrangement,” he added.

“The resources there are God-given for all and for everyone to enjoy. We can work at joint benefit in so far as using the marine resources in the area,” Yasay said.

He added that the Philippines would also consider jointly exploring a natural gas field at Reed Bank, which is similarly within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and far from China’s nearest major landmass.

“I think it would be in the pursuit of our national interest to do that and that will be a big step forward if everyone can agree on proceeding on that basis,” Yasay said when asked about jointly developing Reed Bank.

He insisted the Philippines would not concede any of its rights in the sea.

But he said the issue of sovereignty would not be solved for many years, describing it as a “generational issue,” and that rival claimants must in the meantime work cooperatively.

Duterte and Yasay met with China’s ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, on Thursday. Zhao was seen again at the Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday.

AFP

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3 Comments

  1. So even if the Philippines wins its case before the UN(PCA), Yasay and Duterte want to play nice and serve as acolytes to China? What is the point of going to the UN and winning the case placed before the Hague Tribunal? Why should Duterte and Yasay offer to share the islands that could potentially be sources of oil and gas and minerals? If the Philippines is victorious before the UN, the islands belong to the nation and the people, and Duterte’s government should not unilaterally make a decision of “sharing” the country’s assets without the consent of the people. The Philippines under Duterte must be the only country in the world willing to give up its territorial ownership of the Spratlys to a bully like China (who wants to cherry-pick the UN decisions that it would adhere to) just because Duterte’s government wants to “go soft and seek a compromise”, and move away from US influence (“para maging independent daw”). They seem to have forgotten that other nations like Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia have made their own claims and these nations must be informed or consulted before any bilateral talks with China. These countries may not be willing to “share” and give up their claims just because the Philippines decided to do so. Furthermore, there are strategic interests to consider. There are two ideologies in conflict in SE Asia: Communism and Democracy. The interests of Japan, Australia, Indonesia, etc., cannot be ignored. Most importantly, the Philippines should not forget that the USA considers the Pacific region as part of its sphere of interest (since the time of Dewey), and ignoring its position on the issue would be foolish. The USA is the number one military power in the region, and for the Philippines to act as a “free lancer” without consultation with the US government would be downright foolish and stupid! Get real! Does Duterte want the Philippines to be a vassal of China? He may be pro-China. But from my perspective, the majority of Pinoys are not, and they are not willing to “share” what is rightfully theirs.

  2. vagoneto rieles on

    Since 2013, when China started to take serious looks at the Spratlys, even make bold moves such as shooing away Filipino fishermen from these shoals and sandbars, our knee-jerk reaction consisted more of righteous indignation and saber rattling. Only when China started to land troops in the Spratlys did we, still indignantly, initiate diplomatic protests; but even then, some sectors, still talked about making a ‘stand’. It would be laughable and a waste of time to make assessments of the country’s military capability with a view to making such a stand. To juxtapose the military might of the Philippines, vs that of Malaysia, Taiwan, or especially, China, would probably give us a very sobering thought.

    It is not late to soften our posture vis-a-vis China despite her new landing strips and troop barracks in the Spratlys. China is now the second richest country in the world owing to their dualism in governance and economic management. Their economy’s gradual move towards western style capitalism..while remaining staunchly communist in administrative control.. has produced more billionaires than there are in New York State. The Philippines, for her part, is among the poorer countries worldwide. While heavily populated, she is still underdeveloped, in terms of modern agriculture, mineral and precious metal extraction and industrial processing; although she also has a fairly well developed infrastructure and a wealth of capable manpower and executive talent. Further to this, the Philippines has had a long-standing relationship with China…from the ‘Pari-an’ Chinese settlements outside of the ‘Intramuros’ in the 1500s, to the Filipino/Chinese-run ‘Binondo Central Bank’ during the difficulties caused by the 1988/89 ‘coups d’tat’. In balance, the relationship could well be symbiotic and productive. Considering ‘geography’ and the progressive move towards globalization, it is time to have an honest conversation among ourselves on whether to stay under the umbrella of a distant western power, (nostalgic alliances look good only on paper); or, to cozy up to a ‘lately’ powerful neighbor who could well be a partner in our security and development.

  3. JONATHAN TEJADA on

    President Duterte i know is just playing safe he knows we don’t have the capability and even we wait for hundreds of years we cannot attain superpower military might as china so he play accepting talks OFFERED BY/with china on the issue. Because war will only make worse for the present problems besetting our country.He doesn’t want to be called PUPPET of america, remember he is a leftist, who believes In our independence IDEALS, but it doesnt mean we filipinos are cowards .We have proven our bravery already to the world countless times!!! So better for filipinos to be and are smart to even give the nearby scarborough shoal to china even though it is within our 200 nautical miles EEZ with plea to china that must allow all phil fishermen to make a living unhampered , unbullied in our 200 EEZ , and lend resources for huge funding of LRT AND THE LIKE transport systems , including undersea tunnel train systems connecting mainland LUZON VISAYAS MINDANAO and thirdly, peace amd usual trade and commerce with china and all nations – NO TO ANY WAR OR DESTRUCTION!!!YES TO CONTINUOUS PROGRESS AND NATION-BUILDING OF THE PHILIPPINES.!!!!! But very sad to think, that the Philippines, cannot do without its international commitments and obligations to the international community of UN and ASEAN that ALL RIGHTEOUS NATIONS say must defend the UNCLOS ,that all south china sea is international freedom of navigation,commerce and trade, and that no nation should assert its ownership of such international waters. “pls note territorial limit for any international maritime (countries with seacoastlines) nation is 12 nautical miles only’. “if china want all South china sea, let all NATIONS OF THE PEACE- COMMITTED WORLD “”UN”” MILITARY POLICE FORCE, WHICH PHILIPPNES IS A DELEGATE AND MEMBER enforce the BETTERMENT FOR ALL NATIONS, NOT ONLY CHINA’S !!!. AS ANY MEMBER STATE, THE PHILIPPINES MUST CONTRIBUTE AND SEND SELECTED MILITARY STRIKE FORCE TO JOIN THE UN MILITARY POLICE FORCE!!