MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano forefronts economic progress as the reason why the ASEAN foreign ministers, in their statement on Tuesday, did not highlight the arbitral ruling favoring Philippines over China in the West Philippine Sea dispute.
“There is no doubt we do not like the actions of some players including China in the past, but we need to have progress. If you go back in the past just to scold, it’s regressive,” he said.
Former national security adviser Rolio Golez said the Duterte administration is balancing out our relations with China given the economic benefits from our engagement with them.
“They want to avoid an irritant. The Philippines as the host, the president would like to strengthen the economic engagement with China, economic package that we got last year, project, loans, credit, grants, investments and also trade, so they are giving that priority right now,” said Golez.
However, Golez voiced out his concern that the Philippines’ refusal to assert its rights over the West Philippine Sea might affect its position in the long run.
“Medyo delikado ang trade off na iyon (That trade off can be dangerous). Hindi natin alam ano ang magiging epekto nito sa ating paninindigan (We do not know how it will affect our stand) because we will have to negotiate the arbitral ruling. Now, a lot of people are worried, including myself that this might weaken our position in the end,” he said.
Director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, Atty. Jay Batongbacal, meanwhile believes it is a small victory already that the ASEAN ministers emphasized the importance of non-militarization, even if China is finished with its installations in the disputed waters.
He added, however that the consistencies in the statements of Sec. Cayetano and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi prove that the two countries have reached an accord and are coordinated in terms of their respective positions in the issue.
Many are expecting that at the end of the ASEAN meetings this year, under the chairmanship of the Philippines, ASEAN will finalize the code of conduct that might be legally binding for all countries that have overlapping claims on some areas in the West Philippines Sea. — Joyce Balancio | UNTV News & Rescue