Duterte urged to restore 'South China Sea' name

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2016 06:27 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks in front of soldiers at military headquarters. Reuters

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte should consider using the original name of the West Philippine Sea as a gesture of goodwill to China following the government's victory in its international arbitration case, a retired diplomat said Tuesday.

Former President Benigno Aquino III made a "mistake" when he issued an order ditching the name "South China Sea" referring to the portion of the vast sea within the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, former Ambassador Jose Apolinario Lozada said.

"The first thing that we should really do is... let's try to be magnanimous by giving back the name as South China Sea," Lozada told ABS-CBN News.

"For the Chinese, this is really very important...In the first place, it's only the Philippines that calls it West Philippine Sea."

The Duterte administration is looking to send a special envoy to Beijing following the ruling, which invalidated the basis of China's claim to most of the resource-rich waters. Among the names being floated is that of former President Fidel Ramos.

Lozada, a former Ramos adviser on foreign affairs, said the 88-year-old former president has the "stature and knowledge" for the job.

Ramos has "a lot of experience in negotiations especially in back-channeling and in keeping quiet at the right time," said his sister, former diplomat and Sen. Leticia Ramos-Shahani.

Lozada said the envoy should tell the Chinese that "we are giving them more importance now than before."

"The most difficult part after this is to convince China to recognize the authority of the Philippines over the islands and hopefully they will quietly leave," he said.

"But if they will not leave then we will have to extend our hand of friendship to them and convince them that they are also a priority to our lives."

Lozada said the Philippines should also reach out to allies such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, noting that forcing China to respect the arbitration ruling would need "the help and support of countries who have been helping us all this time."