PH says S. China Sea row should be resolved in 'neighborly' manner


Posted at Jul 12 2017 10:26 AM

Subi Reef. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative / DigitalGlobe

MANILA - A year after the Philippines' legal victory over China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Duterte administration said Wednesday it wants the standing issues over the South China Sea resolved in a "neighborly" manner.

A statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs said the administration reaffirms its "unwavering commitment to protect our country's territorial claims and maritime entitlements," but it believes that the ongoing conflict "should further be resolved in a manner consistent with the spirit of good neighborly relations."

The department said President Rodrigo Duterte's priority of regional peace and stability has led to "the healthy environment of dialogue, cooperation, and development."

After a tense standoff between Chinese coast guard ships and a Philippine naval vessel in the Scarborough Shoal, Manila in 2013 lodged a case against Beijing for overlapping claims in territories in the South China Sea.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines and invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over nearly all of the resource-rich South China Sea. While it clarified the status of territories within the disputed waters, it did not rule on the matter of sovereignty or ownership.

Duterte, whose term began only a few days before the decision was released, has sought warmer ties with China after the arbitration ruling.

He said his administration is pursuing an independent foreign policy and that the people and interests of the country will take precedence in resolving international disputes.

In the statement, the DFA said the administration's "bold initiatives" have become a "game changer" not only in the geo-political landscape in the region but also in the lives of Filipinos.

The Philippine approach, it said, benefited the country economically and strengthened its status as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and "regional peacemaker."

"Through the adoption of positive neighborly relations, our fishermen are back exercising their livelihood in Scarborough Shoal. We have received investment and financial assistance commitments upwards of USD 30 Billion from our partners in the region," it said.

"These significant developments have likewise allowed our defense resources to also address other pressing security concerns facing the country," it added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said the Duterte administration is committed to its strategy "to strengthen old allies and engage new partner nations."

"The Philippines shall remain an enemy to none and a friend to all in its pursuit of economic and political benefits for the country, including the long-term security and stability in the region," the statement read.

The DFA also said the Philippines is further encouraged by the Agreement on a Framework on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, noting that it is a move towards negotiating an effective Code of Conduct.