MANILA - The Philippines will “negotiate” with China on overlapping sea claims based on an international court’s ruling next week on the two countries’ entitlements in disputed waters, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Saturday.
Yasay said he expected the United Nations-backed tribunal based in The Hague to rule on Tuesday that the disputed area is the Philippines’ “exclusive economic zone.”
But the court can also rule in favor of China or not decide on the case at all, Yasay told DZMM.
“Mag negotiate tayo within the confines or the context of the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal. Doon natin inenegotiate yung ating overlapping claims,” he said.
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Yasay said negotiations were “necessary” because the Arbitral Tribunal had no powers to enforce its ruling.
“We must negotiate an agreement for a delimitataion so we can see which areas we can explore or can jointly explore together,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in his first cabinet meeting immediately after he took office on June 30, said he wanted a “soft landing” with China after Tuesday’s ruling.
“The best position here is not to incite or provoke some more. Let’s wait for the decision. Pag-aralan natin desisyon,” Yasay said Saturday.
“After that, we will act on the basis of what we feel will promote the best national interest. We should not compromise on anything that will erode our sovereignty, our territorial rights or our rights under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” he said.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, even waters close to its neighbors’ coasts. The Philippines’ case is the first legal challenge to the claims.
Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, home to key shipping lanes and vast oil and gas reserves.
Yasay said the disputes might not be resolved soon, even with a ruling from the Arbitral Tribunal.
“The sovereign claims that we have should not be solved by us and cannot be solved by us in this generation, but we will leave it for the next generation to solve. Maybe they will be much wiser than the present generation,” he said.