Teodoro to China: Be magnanimous, earn PH’s trust
MANILA, Philippines — China is more obligated to show kindness and earn the Philippines’ trust while trying to resolve disputes in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), newly appointed Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. remarked on Thursday.
Teodoro emphasized China’s larger responsibility during the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) briefing, where he was asked if he had a message to Beijing.
His remarks were noteworthy after Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Jay Tarriela confronted Chinese defense minister Li Shangfu on the “apparent disconnect” in the Asian giant’s words and actions in the WPS.
During a recent discussion at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Tarriela brought up the discrepancy between China’s rhetoric and actions in the West Philippine Sea. Tarriela mentioned the January visit to China by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and the accusations of harassment and expulsion of Filipino fishermen from the Ayungin Shoal region by the China Coast Guard.
Tarriela said his question was ignored by the defense minister.
Respect Unclos, arbitral award
“As a stronger country, it has the bigger obligation to be magnanimous and show trust, and to earn the trust of the Filipino people, by conforming its activities to recognize norms of international law, which in our case is Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” Teodoro said.
“We’re talking about the arbitral award. It has already been stated by our two past presidents that our rights and our territory are defined by Unclos, and it has been stated too that this cannot be fritted away or bargained away by passages of administration or passage of time,” he added.
According to Teodoro, the arbitral tribunal that decided on the Philippines’ dispute with China over the WPS was an impartial and independent body.
Last July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled the Philippines has rights to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and that China’s nine-dash line claim — which encompasses part of the WPS — has no legal and historical basis.
China previously said it does not acknowledge the ruling, maintaining that parts of the country’s EEZ are Chinese territory.
Teodoro said China could have aired its side if only they participated in the proceedings.
“It was done by an independent arbitral tribunal of experts in international law where (if) had China participated, it would have had a chance to demonstrate its legal position in a fair and impartial proceeding. So in that same vein, we have to follow transparent procedures, and that is the best way to build trust,” he said.