MANILA – Malacañang on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte has considered all non-war options to resolve the West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute and the “best” option is still through diplomatic negotiations.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this reaction to several non-war options proposed by Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio to enforce the 2016 arbitral ruling that nullified China’s nine-dash line map that nearly covers the entire WPS or South China Sea.
“Basta sa ngayon, ang Presidente, ang option niya ay iyong pinakamahusay (For now, the President, his option is the best option) and that is negotiation, diplomatic negotiations,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
“Ang Presidente, pinag-aralan na lahat iyan. At pinili niya ang pinakamatalino, pinaka-hindi mapanganib na solusyon (The President studied all the options. And he chose the smartest, least dangerous solution),” he added.
According to Panelo, Duterte, a lawyer, has been studying these options even before he was elected as President.
“Hindi pa siya Presidente, napag-aralan niya na iyan. Dahil alam mo, kapag tatakbo kang presidente, dapat alam mo na lahat ng gagawin mo (Even before he was President, he already studied all options. Because when you run as President, you should already know everything you should do),” Panelo said.
He maintained that bilateral negotiations are meant to ensure the safety of the Filipinos.
“Wala nang ibang gaganda roon kasi ang kausap mo roon ay mismo iyong supposed to be na kaaway mo (There’s no better option because this way you’re already talking to your supposed enemy),” he said.
Among Carpio’s suggestions to enforce the arbitral ruling is for the Philippines to encourage the Freedom of Navigation and Overflight Operations of the U.S., U.K., France, Australia, Japan, Indian, and Canada in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea; and send on patrol its 10 new 44-meter multi-role response vessels donated by Japan for the use of the Philippine Coast Guard.
Panelo, however, said the government has and continues to consider these as options.
“Eh dati naman nating ginagawa iyon eh, dati nga tayong umiikot doon, di ba may mga Coast Guard nga tayo eh. Pero still the best, iyong negotiation pa rin, iyon pa rin ang number one. Mag-uusap tayo (We have done that before, we have always had patrols there, we have a Coast Guard there. But the best is through negotiations, it’s still number one),” Panelo said.
Meanwhile, he encouraged critics who insisted on other options to enforce the arbitral ruling to run during the next elections to be able to do what they want.
“Kung ipagpipilitan ng mga kritiko iyong kanilang gusto, eh siguro sa susunod na halalan tumakbo silang presidente para kapag sila na ang naging presidente lahat ng gusto nila ay puwede na nilang gawin (If critics want to force us into doing what they want, perhaps they should join the next elections and run for President so that they can do whatever they want),” Duterte said.
Carpio’s other suggestions to enforce the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s verdict are:
• The Philippines may enter into a Convention with Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia declaring that no geologic feature in the Spratly’s generates an Exclusive Economic Zone and there are only territorial seas from geologic features that are above water at high-tide,
• The Philippines may file an extended continental shelf claim in the West Philippine Sea beyond the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone off the coast of Luzon, where China is the only opposite coastal state,
• The Philippines may send its own Navy to join the Freedom of Navigation and Overflight Operations to assert that there is an EEZ in the WPS,
• The Philippines may support private sector initiatives to enforce the arbitral award. (PNA)