Senator urges ‘soft’ tack with China in WPS | Inquirer News

Senator urges ‘soft’ tack with China in WPS

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:44 AM December 23, 2023

Sen. Win Gatchalian

Sen. Win Gatchalian —Joseph Vidal / Senate Social Media Unit

The Philippines should consider backchannel talks in resolving its maritime dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said on Friday as he warned against sending Philippine Navy ships to Recto (Reed) Bank.

“Sending gray ships is tantamount to sending battle ships to that area and there’s a big possibility that the tensions will increase rather than decrease,” Gatchalian said in an online press briefing.


“If we send gray ships, there’s a big chance that it would result in a war,” he cautioned. “What we need is to have a dialogue … and see how far we can go and look for ways to move forward.”


According to the senator, it would be better to look for “soft approaches” in dealing with Beijing to allow Manila to fully exercise its sovereign rights in Recto Bank in looking for oil and gas in the resource-rich area off Palawan province.

The Philippines had previously entered into a memorandum of understanding with China for a joint oil exploration in the area before the Department of Energy stopped all activities last year.

Gatchalian, the vice chair of the Senate energy committee, said the government should always discuss power security in its negotiations with China.

Like what the late President Benigno Aquino III had done, he said President Marcos may send a representative to hold backchannel negotiations with the military superpower.

He noted that Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo had a phone conversation with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, wherein they talked about maintaining open communications to settle their countries’ territorial disputes peacefully.

Said Gatchalian: “Aside from talking and issuing statements, I think it’s also important to do back-channeling talks. That’s another diplomatic mechanism to have a frank [conversation] … without a lot of external comments.”


“I think we can do this step by step. First, we talk about energy security in the area. Let’s put that in the conversation because the conversation now is more on peace and stability,” he added.

READ: PH, China officials agree on dialogue amid tensions

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TAGS: China, Gatchalian, West Philippine Sea, WPS

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