MANILA – The Philippines may “explore” the strategy used in the signing of the 2014 sea border agreement with Indonesia to settle its long-standing maritime dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said Tuesday.
The agreement, which was first inked in 2014 after more than two decades of negotiations, sets the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) borders between the Philippines and Indonesia in the Mindanao and Celebes seas.
“Well, I think it is worthwhile to explore at the very least because it is one instance that this kind of discussion, we came to a conclusion and we came to a resolution. So, we should try it,” Marcos told reporters in a press briefing at the Fairmont Hotel, Jakarta.
On Sunday, Marcos met with the Filipino community in Jakarta to kick off his inaugural state visit to Indonesia.
Marcos and his delegation also held a bilateral meeting with Indonesian officials and roundtable discussion with Indonesian business leaders and investors on Monday.
Marcos expressed hope that the same strategy would work but noted that other plans may also be carried out if it fails.
“Now, hopefully, it works. If it doesn’t work, I will try something else, but at least we have a beginning point. That’s how I see it,” he added.
Marcos said his interest in the delimitation talks between the Philippines and Indonesia led him to think that the same could be applied in settling territorial disputes with other nations.
“So sinasabi ko ‘yan ang parang template, para doon sa delimitation talks sa continental shelf that we are undergoing now. But also, not only for the issues between Indonesia and the Philippines, pero sabi ko, pwede kong gamitin ‘yan. Pwede natin gamitin ‘yan, pag iba, kahit na iba ‘yung kausap sa delimitation talks na ganyan (So I’m saying that could be the template for delimitation talks on the continental shelf that we are undergoing now. But also, not only for the issues between Indonesia and Philippines, but I said, we can use it even if we are talking to others on the similar delimitation),” he added.
The 2014 sea border agreement was ratified by former President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2017 and by the Indonesian Parliament in April 2017, with Manila completing the two-step domestic procedure when the Philippine Senate concurred with the executive ratification in June 2019.
The Philippines and Indonesia are both parties to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and are entitled to EEZs of 200 nautical miles.
Under the said convention, states have sovereign rights to explore and exploit, and conserve and manage natural resources, within their EEZ.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Ma. Teresita Daza said Marcos is expected to tackle issues concerning the WPS during his state visits to Indonesia and Singapore.
The Philippines is currently locked in a maritime dispute with China, which lays claim to over 80 percent of the South China Sea, including the WPS that is within the Philippines’ EEZ.
In January 2013, the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China’s expansive maritime claims before the arbitration court in The Hague.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines, invalidating China's nine-dash line claim to the waterway.
China has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the verdict. (PNA)