MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday urged the Chinese government to tone down the rhetoric over the sea dispute in Scarborough Shoal as both sides try to negotiate a peaceful solution to the issue.
Speaking to ANC, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Philippines remains committed to seeking a diplomatic solution to the sea row.
“The Philippines is committed to defusing the tension. That’s why you have not seen us do a lot of press releases and talking to the media because we want to tone down the rhetoric about this issue and it seems that, at least from our side we have been able to do that,” he said.
He added: “[We are] hoping that China will also tone down the rhetoric so that a good atmosphere for the continuance of these negotiations to seek a diplomatic solution in the situation in Bajo de Masinloc could be immediately found.”
Hernandez said the pull-out of a Philippine vessel at a lagoon near the shoal last June 5 was part of an agreement with Beijing to de-escalate the situation.
President Aquino earlier said a Philippine aircraft will fly over the disputed shoal to check if the Chinese side had also pulled out 2 boats in the area.
The DFA spokesman said the Philippine government is still hoping that Beijing will agree to a dispute settlement mechanism under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) to sort out the sea dispute. He said using the legal track will bring a durable and permanent solution to the issue.
He also said the Philippines is trying to build a “minimum credible defense posture” to ensure that its sovereign rights over Bajo de Masinloc are not violated.
“The focus of the administration now is to get more equipment and make sure we can monitor and patrol our seas and stop these intrusions from being undertaken by these outsiders,” he said.