Duterte won’t compromise PH stand on West Philippine Sea
President Rodrigo Duterte will not enter into any agreement with China which will be prejudicial to the country’s interest in the West Philippine Sea, declared Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
Abella made the assurance amid a warning from Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that Mr. Duterte could face impeachment if he “concedes our sovereignty of Scarborough shoal.”
The President had earlier referred to Scarborough Shoal as a “fishpond” which was outside the country’s 22-kilometer territory. He has said that fighting a war with China for Scarborough was unwinnable and that he would rather sit down and get trade, investments, aid and loans from China.
The arbitral court ruled on numerous issues but in terms of the Scarborough Shoal, it concluded no country had sovereign rights over the tranquil, rocky outcrop, thus all states with overlapping claims were entitled to fish there.
“Let’s just let them talk. As far as I know, this is based more or less on economic agreements. In the words of the President, we want a soft landing. Although we are not planning to compromise any issues, everything is about timing,” said Abella in a radio interview.
The President is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, National People’s Congress Chair Zhang Dejiang and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his state visit from Oct. 19 to 21.
Abella said the President would sign agreements “in various fields of cooperation” during the state visit which would include a delegation of nearly 500 businessmen.
“We expect good results for the country and it will read an economic increase. There are exciting things that are coming up,” said Abella.
Beijing’s ambassador to the Philippines said on Friday the two sides could pursue broad business ties while still at odds over sovereignty.
At a press conference, Zhao Jianhua said there was common ground on the South China Sea that both sides could work from, including on the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
Duterte’s rapprochement with China marks an astonishing reversal in Philippine foreign policy since July, when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute.
Manila lodged the case in response to what is now a four-year blockade by China’s coastguard at the Scarborough Shoal, a prime fishing patch.
China has never recognized the case, but has been outraged by it, leaving much of the region on edge.
While generous with his praise of China, Duterte has still insisted Filipino fishermen should have unhindered access to the shoal.
Zhao said he was confident a solution could be found and eventually the two countries could create “a sea of peace and cooperation.” “The Chinese side is very much interested in fishery cooperation. That is a kind of response to your president’s concern about fishermen,” he said when asked by a reporter about granting Duterte his wish.
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