Robredo says talks about WPS will start only if China acknowledges Hague ruling
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo said that if elected president, she is willing to work with China in areas in which it has no dispute with the Philippines.
But in terms of sitting down to discuss the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS) region, Robredo said that discussions would only start once China acknowledges the Philippines’ rights and the Hague ruling which gave the country exclusive rights over the territorial waters.
“For me, it will always be beneficial to us to have an inclusive and independent foreign policy, as opposed to one which favors specific countries. But that being said, for China, we will collaborate with them in the areas that we have no conflict such as trade and investments, much like what Vietnam has been doing,” Robredo told panelists from the Rotary Club of Manila on Thursday.
“But when it comes to the West Philippine Sea, we cannot deal with them without their recognition of the arbitral ruling,” she added.
Robredo explained that for example, any possible oil exploration deal with China would only be initiated once they recognize the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) decision in 2016, which invalidated the Asian superpower’s nine-dash line claim.
According to the PCA, China’s nine-dash line claim which spans over a huge portion of the South China Sea and the WPS, has no historical and legal basis.
“For example, we only agree to join oil exploration with them if there is first a recognition of our rights as declared by the arbitral tribunal,” she said.
The Vice President was asked about her possible outlook towards foreign policy, and whether she would continue the current administration’s stand on independent foreign policy.
President Rodrigo Duterte after assuming office in 2016 vowed to pursue an independent foreign policy but was criticized afterward for using it as an excuse to get close to China.
Under Duterte’s term, there were various incidents of China’s incursion over the WPS. But Duterte in recent months explained that China made a threat about a possible conflict if the Philippine government insists on its rights, adding that the only way to retake WPS is by force.
In terms of the United States, Robredo said that she will continue strengthening relations with the country’s oldest ally, while shifting the attention towards protection of Filipinos in the said country.
“As for the United States, being one of our oldest allies, we will continue strengthening our relations with them, especially given the fact that a lot of Filipinos are working and living there,” Robredo said.
“But we want to create better ties especially in the areas of protection for our citizens, increasing exports, bolstering trade, military and intelligence capabilities, and of course protecting the west Philippine Sea,” she added.
Last Thursday, Robredo ended months-long speculations about her next political plans, announcing that she will be running for president after unity talks with other candidates fell through.
Robredo, a known critic of President Duterte, said earlier that she has given up on uniting presidential candidates, as she is now focusing on building a wide coalition within the public instead.
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