FOREIGN Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose has expressed optimism that the security situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) will improve once China makes good on President Xi Jinping’s promise of seeking peaceful resolution of its maritime disputes with its Asian neighbors.
Jose said in a news briefing on Wednesday that the Philippines echoes the statement made by Xi, who vowed not to use force in the tension-filled region.
“This expression of commitment by the Chinese president when coupled with concrete actions on the ground will undoubtedly lead to the improved situation in the South China Sea,” he added.
In an address to the Australian parliament on Monday, Xi assured neighbors in the Asia Pacific region, as well as the United States, that China will seek to resolve the maritime disputes peacefully.
He, however, also maintained that China would only try to solve the disputes through bilateral means—by talking directly to claimant-countries.
Xi made the assurance two days after US President Barack Obama urged China to pursue peaceful development and adhere to the same rules as other countries.
But the DFA remains hopeful that China will submit a counter-memorial by December, the deadline set by the five-member arbitral tribunal in The Hague.
The Philippines submitted its memorial, or annex of evidences, in March this year.
“We are hoping since the start, since we filed the arbitration case, we have invited China to participate in the arbitration process,” Jose said.
He added that arbitration is a good opportunity for China to clarify the basis of its claims in the region, which the department earlier called as “excessive” because they overlap territories also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei Darussalam.
Jose noted that “warming” relations between China, Vietnam and the United States after the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Beijing is a sign of “positive development” and could help reduce tensions in the region.
“We see this also as a positive development because it reduces tension in the region and of course, it promotes peace and stability in this part of the world,” he said.
“President Benigno Aquino 3rd himself has said that tension does not serve anyone’s interest and we’re sure other countries also share the same view.”