Philippines Sets Aside South China Sea Dispute With Beijing
Manila is setting aside its South China Sea dispute with Beijing for the meantime and will instead focus on enhancing the other aspects of their relations such as trade, commerce, and political affairs.
In an interview with Channel News Asia in Singapore on Thursday, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said Manila has decided to temporarily drop its ongoing conflict with China over the South China Sea.
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"The only way to move forward is to strengthen the other aspects of our relationship and also make sure that in the process, you are able to pursue confidence-building measures that will eventually allow you, in the future, to resolve your disputes peacefully," Yasay told Channel NewsAsia.
Yasay, who is in Singapore accompanying Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on a two-day state visit, said bilateral talks on the South China Sea would resume only after Beijing has accepted the Hague-based tribunal ruling on the dispute handed down on July 12.
According to the ruling, China has no legal basis for its massive territorial claims in the South China Sea. The court also ruled that Beijing had violated international law and the Philippines' rights to explore its resources within its exclusive economic zone.
Manila filed the suit in 2013 before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague questioning the validity of China's claims.
China furiously refused to accept the ruling saying the decision was "illegal" and a "complete waste of piece of paper."
After Duterte assumed office in June, the tough-talking former mayor of Davao sought to mend ties with China. In October, he brought home a $24 billion worth of investment package during his first state visit to Beijing.
Yasay said the South China Sea dispute with Beijing is not the be-all and end-all of its relationship with the Asian giant. He pointed out the impracticality and other negative aspects of confronting China over the disputed territories in the strategic waterway.
"What will you do? Engage yourself in a war with China where there will be no winners? Nobody wants a war," he said.
Yasay emphasized that the best way to approach and resolve their maritime dispute is through bilateral talks and other peaceful avenues.
"We always try to pursue the non-confrontational approach in resolving our differences and disputes," he said. " It will be pursued in a peaceful way."