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PH proceeds with caution

China ready to work with Duterte administration

While the Philippines welcomes the United Nations (UN)-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that rejected China’s claims over much of the South China Sea, it prefers to proceed with caution as it charts its next course of action.

“We welcome the ruling. However, we proceed with caution and – with restraint and sobriety,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in an interview with reporters at the Palace.

Lawmakers also called on the government to exhaust all diplomatic steps with China to pursue the Philippines’ sovereign rights over West Philippine Sea territories now reclaimed and occupied by the Chinese, instead of making immediate demands for China to respect the ruling of the arbitral tribunal.

The fact that the ruling is not clothe with a provision for its execution makes it more imperative for both Philippines and China, together with other countries involved in the West Philippine Sea, to explore all diplomatic means to settle the dispute, the lawmakers said.

The congressmen, led by Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, are confident that China will choose the path of diplomacy and prove itself to be among the leaders of nations that would heed its commitment to peace and harmony in the Asian region.

Reps. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez (PDP-Laban, Negros Occidental); Rodito Albano (NP, Isabela); Sherwin Tugna (CIVAC Party list); Rodel Batocabe (Ako Bicol Party list)  and Gary Alejano (Magdalo Party list) aired the same sentiment as Alvarez, who is expected to head the Lower House as speaker.

Likewise, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes expressed hope that the government will resort to diplomatic means and not armed conflict to keep China away from the disputed territory.

“Without giving up our rights on the territory which is definitely ours by international law, our leaders must use diplomatic means to keep China away from that portion of our country,” Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said in an interview.

“There should be a sincere move not to resort to armed conflict with China,” he added.

CHINA READY TO NEGOTIATE

Despite the setback, China remains committed to negotiations with the Philippines, noting new President Rodrigo Duterte’s positive remarks on the issue.

“China stands ready to work with the new Philippine government,” Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said, adding that “early removal of obstacles posed by the arbitration case” would help improve relations.

Though it expressed readiness to work with the new Philippine leadership, China blamed the Philippines for stirring up trouble and issued a policy paper Wednesday calling the islands in the South China Sea its “inherent territory,” a day after an international tribunal said China had no legal basis for its expansive claims.

“It is the Philippines that has created and stirred up the trouble,” Liu said in introducing the paper.

China also warned of “conflicts and confrontation” in the South China Sea as it angrily rejected the international tribunal’s verdict.