Bilateral talks with China over sea row ‘necessary’ – incoming DFA chief Yasay

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016. Filed under: Philippine News
President Benigno S. Aquino III presents the Busog, Lusog, Talino (BLT) Grand Excellence Award to Francisco Laya Memorial Integrated School (FLMIS), represented by FLMIS Principal Susan Pirante and feeding coordinator Marilou Genovia, during the 2nd BLT Excellence Awards at the Isla Ballrooms 2 & 3 of the EDSA Shangri-La Manila in Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City on Monday (May 30).(MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III presents the Busog, Lusog, Talino (BLT) Grand Excellence Award to Francisco Laya Memorial Integrated School (FLMIS), represented by FLMIS Principal Susan Pirante and feeding coordinator Marilou Genovia, during the 2nd BLT Excellence Awards at the Isla Ballrooms 2 & 3 of the EDSA Shangri-La Manila in Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City on Monday (May 30).(MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — Incoming Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay on Monday said bilateral talks with China is “necessary” to resolve the long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

“I don’t think that there is another way of resolving this dispute except talking to each other,” Yasay said amid a forthcoming ruling by the The Hague tribunal on Manila’s case that seeks to invalidate China’s far-reaching claim in the resource-rich waters.

The Philippines’ maritime standoff with China in the Manila-claimed Scarborough Shoal in 2012, which resulted in the shoal falling under Chinese control, impelled the government of President Benigno Aquino III to seek international arbitration in January 2013.

China insists it has historical and indisputable claim over nearly the entire South China Sea even as it overlaps with the territorial boundaries of its smaller Asian neighbors like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The Philippines refers to parts of the South China Sea as West Philippine Sea. Manila has adopted the name West Philippine Sea for parts of the disputed waters that fall under its exclusive economic zone as allowed by the United Nations.

Beijing prefers to negotiate one-on-one with the smaller claimants, giving it leverage because of its sheer size and military power. China snubbed the case, maintaining that it will not honor any decision that will be rendered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, where the Philippine case was filed.

“It is my understanding that there are some reasons why bilaterals with China have been suspended for one reason or another. I do not know the reasons but we certainly would like to make sure that we are be able to resume bilateral talks because these are necessary,” Yasay told journalists at the DFA where he was briefed by officials on foreign policy issues.

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said he would wait for the final decision of the court on Manila’s case, but at the same time stated that he will pursue bilateral talks with China if the matter remains unresolved.

His position runs in stark contrast to the policy of Aquino, who sought to settle the disputes through multilateral initiatives, such as third-party arbitration – a move frowned upon by Beijing.

Yasay said he expects to make policy recommendations to Duterte after the series of policy briefings prepared for him by the country’s senior Foreign Affairs officials which will conclude on June 9.

“We discussed the West Philippine Sea as a an urgent and priority issue. After the briefing, I will be reporting things that should be brought to his attention,” Yasay said.(MNS)

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