Philippines to manage sea dispute with China ‘peacefully’, says DFA chief

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 26 2023 12:14 PM | Updated as of Sep 26 2023 03:08 PM

 DFA secretary Enrique Manalo during the Commission on Appointments' (CA) Committee on Foreign Affairs meeting on August 31, 2022. Albert Calvelo/ Senate PRIB/File
DFA secretary Enrique Manalo during the Commission on Appointments' (CA) Committee on Foreign Affairs meeting on August 31, 2022. Albert Calvelo/ Senate PRIB/File

MANILA — The Philippines will manage its territorial dispute with China "peacefully", the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday, after Beijing installed barriers at Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. 

The Philippine Coast Guard on Monday it removed the 300-meter floating barrier that was allegedly deployed to stop Filipinos accessing the traditional fishing ground. 

The removal of the barrier is within the Philippines' territorial rights, DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo said. 

"Our aim is to manage disputes peacefully and through the rule of law and international law," he said during the DFA's budget briefing at the Senate. 

Asked to describe the Philippines’ current relationship with China, Manalo said, “We both recognize that we have differences in South China Sea.” 

“But long ago, we already said that we will not make that the only factor in our relationship with China. But nevertheless, it’s a difference, and we have agreed to manage it. And so, the challenge is how to manage it properly,” Manalo said. 

“We have a complex and big relationship with China. So, everyday, we see how to manage it,” he added, when asked if the Philippines needed to review its relationship with China, as suggested by several senators. 

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China, which seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012, deploys coast guard and other vessels to patrol the fishing ground.

The floating barrier prevented fishing boats from entering the shoal's shallow waters where fish are more abundant. 

Philippine National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said the Philippines condemns the installation of barriers, arguing it "violates the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen whose rights... have been affirmed by the 2016 Arbitral ruling".

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin hit back Monday, saying Scarborough Shoal was "an inherent part of China" and China had "indisputable sovereignty over it and its surrounding waters". 
Scarborough Shoal sits 240 kilometers west of the Philippines' main island of Luzon and nearly 900 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese land mass of Hainan.

Under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China helped negotiate, countries have jurisdiction over the natural resources within about 370 kilometers of their shore.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, while several other countries, including the Philippines, have overlapping claims to parts of it.

Beijing has ignored the 2016 international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis. 

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A seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will give the Philippines a "voice" in major global issues, including the West Philippine Sea, climate change, and migration Manalo said. 

“The Council is responsible for the maintenance of peace and security. So, lahat ng major problems in the world, kino-consider ng Security Council... So we will have a voice in these issues, global issues,” Manalo said. 

“Marami na tayong mga issue like climate change, migration and some other issues. So, all of those, we’ll be able to discuss, or at least participate... We were there, so it’s been 20 years. It’s time na sana, the Philippines can be on the world’s stage," he added. 

The DFA and its attached agencies have a proposed P23.905 billion budget for next year. The agency said it would greatly appreciate any additional funding that Congress could provide.

“Nevertheless, we have our own program to carry forward our interest in the West Philippine Sea. But I said, there are also so many other issues that in effect, involved ang Pilipinas, that’s also we want to push,” he said. 

— With reports from Agence France-Presse; Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News 

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