Manila not Inclined to Implement July 12 Ruling 'Forcefully' Against China
Following a recent survey that showed 84 percent of Filipinos want Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to assert his country's rights over its territories in the South China Sea, a high-ranking official has said that Manila continues to pursue the diplomatic route to assert its claims in the disputed maritime region.
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Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Friday that Manila has been supporting its claims to the strategic waterway through negotiations with China since the arbitration court ruling on July 12 last year, favoring the Philippines and invalidating China's massive claims in the contested areas.
"The president is asserting our rights in the South China Sea, but this is being done in a diplomatic manner," he said in a media briefing at the Malacanang Palace.
Pulse Asia Survey
A recent Pulse Asia Survey showed that eight out of 10 Filipinos want the government to enforce the July 12 international arbitration court ruling, but did not specify how it should be pursued.
Abella cited the international clamor for the Philippines to enforce the ruling "forcefully" after the verdict was handed down, but he said Manila opted to conduct bilateral talks with China instead, saying it would produce "better results."
"When the ruling was handed down in July 12, a lot of countries made a clamor for Manila to enforce the ruling forcefully. But the Duterte government chose diplomacy, bilateral talks, with Beijing which gave us some advantage," he pointed out.
On July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that China had no legal basis to its nine-dash line claims in the South China Sea. The court further stated that Beijing's actions had violated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The court stated that Beijing violated the Philippines' rights to explore resources within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). However, China rejected the ruling, saying it was "illegal" and "null and void."
Since assuming the presidency in June last year, Duterte has been mending ties with China. The relationship between Manila and Beijing has been strained for years after Manila's filed a case against China over its territorial claims to the strategic waterway in 2013.
Abella said that Duterte would continue to pursue Manila's claims in the EEZ despite China's reclamation of three more islands in the area and its occupation of the Scarborough Shoal.
According to the public opinion polling group, Pulse Asia, 84 percent of their 1,200 respondents said the government should uphold the PCA's decision that China's entire claim of the South China Sea, as well as its man-made islands, are illegal.
The survey was conducted between December 6 to 11 last year, two months after Duterte's visit to China. However, the results were published only last Friday.