Kenney: US hopes PH, China will 'show restraint'

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 11 2016 08:27 PM | Updated as of Jul 11 2016 10:31 PM

Former United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney on Monday said America hopes both the Philippines and China will respect the incoming decision from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Kenney told ANC's Headstart America is wishing all parties in the case would "show restraint" as the decision comes out this week.

"It seems, the important thing for us is all the parties use restraint. Whatever the ruling is, it’s important to use this as an opportunity to promote a peaceful settlement," she said.

Kenney is set to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte's foreign policy team in her new role as Counselor of the U.S. State Department. The visit comes a few days ahead of the decision of the arbitration court.

Though Manila believes the court will rule in its favor, China has expressed numerous times that they will not honor a decision which is "illegal and partial," and maintained it will "not accept any solution imposed upon it nor any unilateral resort to a third party dispute settlement procedure."

Kenney emphasized that "the ruling is legally binding under the tribunal rules," and America hopes all parties respect the court decision and then "look for ways to move forward."

"I think the Chinese are eager as are all the claimants to have a peaceful solution. It’s an important body of water. It’s a place of commerce, freedom of navigation, lots of the world’s business passes through there," she said.

"There’s every reason for all the parties to use this as a great opportunity for a step back and then maybe a new beginning in some diplomatic work," she said.

Kenney said the U.S. will not take a position in this case, as it is not one of the claimants in the disputed areas.

"Our role would be very much to encourage everyone to continue to look for diplomatic solutions. [State] Secretary [John] Kerry has spoken to Foreign Secretary [Perfecto] Yasay. Secretary Kerry has also spoken to the Chinese Foreign Minister, again on the same thing: however the ruling comes out, let's use this a good basis to move forward," she said.

China, she noted, is an important country, "economically, militarily, culturally not just to the Philippines, but to all of us," and as a global player, it is important that the solution to the disputes lets the region grow.

CONCERN OVER RECLAMATION

However, she said the U.S. is concerned about the reclamation activity that China has done in the area.

"The reclamation that China has undertaken is on an enormous scale, and we’ve by the way, encouraged all parties not to do this—don’t take any action that makes this complicated situation worse," she said.

She said President Barack Obama has already raised this to Chinese President Xi Jinping, noting that the reclamation does not help in keeping the peace in the region.

Nonetheless, Secretary Kerry and the Chinese Foreign Minister have "a very respectful, good working relationship," according to Kenney.

"Both of them agree that the important thing for US and China is to not only agree where we can and work together, but have the kind of relationship where we manage our differences—where we can candidly and honestly say we disagree on this issue, we disagree on that," she said.

On the other hand, Kenney also noted that although the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States does not allow for U.S. bases in the country, the agreement will benefit the Philippines.

However, Kenney said speculating as to how much help the Philippines may receive from their American counterparts is "not productive" because it is "a situation we hope doesn’t happen."

She also expressed optimism that no matter the result of the incoming leadership shift in the U.S., the "US-Philippine friendship is going to stay strong."

"We’ve been friends for 70 years now. That’s not going to change. We’ve been friends through the good times, the bad times, war, peace. We’re friends. We’re family, really," she said.