MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino said that while the relations of the Philippines and China have improved significantly, it is still a “long way off” for it to be fully normalized.
But he expressed confidence that the territorial dispute will be “resolved amicably” and that “reasonable voices” will prevail.
“We are still hoping that we will resolve this amicably; that reasonable voices will prevail; and that both sides are really geared towards arriving at a solution that will satisfy not just the bilateral concerns but more importantly I guess the multilateral concerns affecting this issue,” Aquino said.
Aquino is looking forward to China’s leadership transfer, expecting a “warming up” of the relationship of the two countries.
“The messages were practically the same only there are some differences. That's why I said that there seems to be a very gradual warming up. I want to be very precise. So we are hopeful that this gradual warming up will be really warmed up by the time of the transition,” he said.
The government is consulting “several law firms” on how to advance the country’s territorial claims in the international arbitration tribunal.
“In terms of ITLOS, it is still being studied by our consultants. There are several law firms that we are consulting conversant and very well thought of and experts in international law to precisely chart the course of how we will utilize the legal procedures in international law to advance our claims,” he said.
Even if he had assigned Trillanes as a backchannel negotiator with China, Aquino said he is treating the dispute as a multilateral problem.
“‘Yung bilateral can be a component but multilateral is the approach. The problem is multilateral. In ASEAN alone there are four countries of the 10 who are claimants to the Spratlys group. So how can two talk or how can one of four talk with China and bind the other three?” he said.
“A multilateral problem only gets addressed if… the format is multilateral and binds everybody. Otherwise, we settle a portion of the problem and we retain the rest of the problem,” he added.