MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. on Monday emphasized the need for a special envoy in China amid the controversies surrounding the maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
Speaking on ANC's "Top Story," the newly minted top diplomat said that while there is an ambassador in Beijing, there is a need to appoint a special envoy with functions different from that of the ambassador.
"There is a need for special envoy to help us in reaching out on back-channel basis," he said.
Yasay revealed that it is his understanding that President Rodrigo Duterte wants better relations with China, among other nations.
"It is my understanding that the President would like to maintain stronger, better relationships with everybody, including China, including the United States, including Japan and all. The Constitution mandates amity, close friendships with all nations and this is what we should pursue," Yasay said.
"I would hope this would be an opportunity for China to agree on strengthening our relationship by first, respecting the decision of UNCLOS and on that basis, see how we can negotiate and pursue certain bilaterals that will bring about what it proposes to do to help us in strengthening our commercial and economic relationship, maybe help us build our infrastructure for that matter. The bottom line, however, will be that in accepting and getting into this kind of a relationship or arrangement with China or any country for that matter, we must take into account the paramount national interest," he added.
Yasay also expressed hopes that ASEAN would take a unified stance on the results of the arbitration between the Philippines and China.
"I would hope that ASEAN, the members of the ASEAN, will also take a unified position once the decision of the arbitral tribunal comes out," Yasay said.
"We can't deny that China is doing everything it can to campaign for support," he continued. "And I guess, this is one of the effects of their campaign. But then again, at the end of the day, the ASEAN countries will have to resolve and make their decision on the basis of what is in their national interest, in the same way that the Philippines will always be looking at what is in our national interests in carrying out our foreign policy on the matter. I would hope that the national interest for them is to implement the decision of the arbitral tribunal."
Yasay also said that the problem in the South China Sea transcends generations and it would be beneficial to mutually work with China in developing the area for the Philippines' and China's interest.
"These are not matters that we expect to be resolved in the near future. This is a generational problem that will be solved by the future generations," Yasay explained.
"In the meantime, insofar as decision of the international tribunal with respect to UNCLOS is concerned, this is an area that we can easily negotiate and see how we can mutually work together in developing and exploiting the area for our mutual interest," he added.