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PH determined to challenge China’s territorial claims, says Palace aide

Abigail Valte

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Encouraged by international support for bringing its territorial dispute with China to the United Nations for arbitration, Malacañang sounded Saturday as though it was ready for whatever action the country’s giant neighbor had in store for the Philippines.

Manila is poised to challenge Beijing’s nine-dash line claim to most of the South China Sea, including parts of it that fall within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone that the government has renamed the West Philippine Sea, in the United Nations on Sunday (Manila time).

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“The Philippines will always do what is right,” Abigail Valte, one of the President’s spokespersons, said on the state-run dzRB radio. “The government will always do what is right for our country and for our countrymen.”

“I think in all of this, the Philippines really will do what is right. China can do what it prefers to do on this matter,” she added.

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In separate meetings with Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have expressed support for the Philippine effort to bring its territorial dispute with China to the United Nations for arbitration.

“At least, it’s apparent from all the support that we’re getting from the international community… that all people agree that any maritime dispute needs a peaceful resolution,” Valte said.

Nonetheless, Valte said, Manila’s challenge to Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea should not cause any damage to the “multi-faceted” relations between the two countries.

“Well, as far as we are concerned, we’re hoping that will not happen because we’ve always been of the position that neighbors can have issues, neighbors can have disputes, and that we have multi-faceted relationship,” Valte said.

“There are many facets to our friendship that we can focus even if we are talking about issues like this,” she added.

Valte did not answer categorically when asked if the government expected other Asean member countries to back the Philippines in its arbitration case even in the face of pressure from China.

“On our part, we’re ready to push for the interest of our country,” Valte said.

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TAGS: Abigail Valte, Arbitration, China, Diplomacy, Philippines, territorial row, United Nations
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