PH-China relations ‘a bit choppy’ now—DFA chief
Manalo’s assessment

PH-China relations ‘a bit choppy’ now—DFA chief

/ 05:32 AM May 23, 2024


Department of Foreign Affairs Sec. Enrique Manalo —Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo described the current state of Philippine-China relations as “a bit choppy,” but ruled out the possibility that they could get any worse.

He said the Philippines had always sought to manage the West Philippine Sea dispute diplomatically but that China was “not helping us to do so.”


“I would say they’re a bit choppy; there are many issues which have come up recently,” the chief diplomat told reporters in an interview on Wednesday.


READ: China claims sovereignty over Pag-asa Island; accuses PH of encroachment

He called out China’s latest harassment of Filipino fishermen at Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal and the resupply missions to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal as “illegal and inconsistent” with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 arbitral award that invalidated Beijing’s claims to most of the South China Sea, including parts within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

“So these actions have been a cause for raising tensions. We’re merely trying to assert our rights. Unfortunately, we’re being hampered in doing so, and in my personal belief, this is creating the tensions,” he said.

READ: PH will not stand idly amid China’s West PH Sea detention threat

‘A challenge for us’

Asked whether diplomatic relations may worsen from this point on, Manalo said, “I don’t think we’re there yet.”

“Of course, the issue is we have to find a way to manage—I don’t want to say ‘agree’ because you might say ‘a gentleman’s agreement.’ But we have to have an understanding on how we can manage our relationship without increasing tensions,” he added.


“China’s not really helping us to do so. That’s the challenge because of the many incidents that are occurring. So that’s a challenge for us how to do that. But we’re still definitely committed to seeking diplomatic means to manage our tensions,” the top Philippine diplomat stressed.

No agreement

He said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) hoped to convene soon the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea, which was hosted by Shanghai in January and scheduled to be held next in Manila.

Manalo also dismissed China’s claims of informal agreements supposedly made with the Duterte administration and early into the Marcos administration not to repair the Philippine military outpost at Ayungin Shoal and to limit small Filipino fishing boats in Panatag or Scarborough Shoal.

“Let me just say, I’ve never seen those agreements. They’re not in writing. I think the only source of those saying that there are agreements has been from China. And that’s the truth. We’ve never seen any of those agreements,” said Manalo, a career diplomat who served as undersecretary and briefly as acting foreign secretary during the Duterte years.

“I don’t recall even having discussed proposals to have agreements,” he added, explaining that any agreement has to be in writing and signed by both sides.

“Well, China can assert they’re valid, but if we don’t think they’re valid, then it’s not a bilateral agreement. Maybe China thinks it’s an agreement, but it’s not an agreement for us,” Manalo said.

Manalo said he was also not aware of the supposed understanding China claims to have reached with then Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who now serves as the country’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and presidential special envoy to China.

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“I didn’t ask him because I didn’t hear of any agreement. There’s no document. You know, this is the obvious truth. There’s no document,” he added.

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TAGS: DFA, West Philippine Sea

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