MANILA – Beijing has denied ever asking Manila to withdraw the arbitration case it filed before an international court against China in exchange for incentives.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang said reports that Beijing had offered incentives in exchange for Manila dropping its West Philippine Sea arbitration case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) are "sheer fabrication."
"No one can shake the Chinese government's resolve of safeguarding national territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. We will never trade away our sovereignty and territory," Qin said at a regular press conference last February 28.
Former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez earlier said reliable sources told him that China had offered the Philippines a "mutual withdrawal" from the shoal in exchange for Manila dropping the arbitration.
However, he likened the offer to an "intruder in your own backyard asking the owner that they should both leave."
"I said - what kind of an incentive is that? It is our exclusive economic zone. Why should we reciprocate them leaving our own exclusive economic zone? Parang sa Tagalog e pinasok yung bakuran mo tapos sasabihin nung pumasok sa bakuran: 'O sige, aalis ako. Umalis ka din.' Anong klaseng palitan ng incentive yan?" he asked.
Golez also said China also offered a "trade carrot" to the country after Beijing said it had $10 trillion in trade being opened to the world.
The report of a Chinese incentive came as Manila is set to submit a "memorial" or written pleading before ITLOS before the March 30 deadline, in a bid to bolster its case against Beijing's sweeping nine-dash claim over the South China Sea.
Golez said the filing of the memorial before ITLOS could be a game-changer especially in the Philippine government's initiative to take the rule of law in settling the dispute.
"The memorial is like, in common legal parlance, is that it is like a pleading, a brief where we have the statement of facts, our history in the area, the basis for our claims and the statement of law why we are saying that legally by international law especially UNCLOS this area is ours and there is no basis for the 9-dash line of China," he said.
China and the Philippines have been locked in a tense dispute over ownership of the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, which is 220 km from Zambales.
The Philippine government claims Beijing has effectively gained control of the shoal, while China says the shoal is part of its historical claim to most of the South China Sea including waters near the coasts of its neighbors.
Manila has asserted the shoal falls within its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), giving it the right to exploit the natural resources in this area. Recently, Manila protested the Chinese civilian coast guards' alleged use of water cannon to expel Filipino fishermen from the shoal.
Manila has pursued legal action by filing a complaint with a UN-backed tribunal challenging the basis of Beijing's large territorial claims. Beijing has refused to join the arbitration.
Qin said China remains firmly opposed to the arbitration proceeding initiated by the Philippines "and will by no means accept that."
"This clear-cut position will not change," Qin said.