China wonât budge on sea ruling â envoy
Images from Ryan Martinson, of the China Maritime Studies Institute of the US Naval War College, show the Chinese oceanographic survey ships Zhanjian (below) and Dong Fang Hong 3, which were recently seen operating in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
China won’t budge on sea ruling – envoy
Romina Cabrera (The Philippine Star) - August 10, 2019 - 12:00am

DFA files another protest

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte may discuss the arbitral ruling on the South China Sea with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, but Beijing will not be swayed into accepting it, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said yesterday.

“Our position has been clearly stated at the very beginning of the filing of the arbitration,” Zhao said in a chance interview. “When the result of the arbitration (came out)… we also expressed that we will not accept it and we will not recognize it.”

He stressed: “That position has not changed, and will not be changed.”

Zhao noted Duterte had announced that the arbitral ruling would be raised in a friendly and “non-confrontational” manner rather than “invoked” with Xi. The envoy said he did not expect the discussion on the ruling to affect friendly bilateral ties.

But presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo has a different idea as he quoted Duterte as saying that the “time has come” to invoke the ruling that favors the Philippine position on the South China Sea dispute. 

“He said: ‘Remember that I said before that there will be a time when I will invoke the arbitral ruling? This is the time. That’s why I’m going there’,” Panelo said during a press briefing earlier this week.

Duterte himself confirmed that he would bring up the ruling of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration when he meets with Xi in Beijing this month.

“President Duterte is the president of the Philippines. He has the total freedom to talk about anything he likes either in the Philippines or on foreign trips,” Zhao said.  

He contradicted Duterte’s statement that China is causing the delay in coming up with a code of conduct for the SCS, something that may result in a “miscalculation” in the disputed areas.

Without giving specifics, Zhao said that it is “someone else” inside and outside Southeast Asia that is delaying the process. He gave assurance that they are determined to seek a final and peaceful solution to the “differences” and that Beijing is not looking for conflict or trouble. 

“We are now working expeditiously with the Philippines and other ASEAN countries to formulate the code of conduct. China was the first to propose to conclude the COC within three years. It is China who is working very hard with the Philippines and the other countries to conclude the COC earlier than three years,” Zhao added. 

Duterte, who is scheduled to visit China this month, said yesterday that he would talk about the situation in the South China Sea and the lack of a COC, which “has been pending for a long time.”

“I said that’s why I’m going there. They are delaying it and it’s causing so many incidents and one day it will… one mistake, a miscalculation there and it will be hard to undo,” he said.

Diplomatic protest

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs has filed another diplomatic protest against China over the presence of Chinese survey ships in Philippine waters, Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said yesterday.

Responding to the tweet of former elections commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, Locsin said the protest against China has already been filed.

“Thank you @DFAPHL Sec. @teddyboylocsin for listening to the @dndphl. Hopefully we have a written diplomatic protest and ask the Chinese Embassy to explain...,” Larrazabal said.

Locsin replied, “Don’t hope; it’s done.”

Earlier in the day, Locsin tweeted: “Okay, got it, General. @DFAPHL firing off diplomatic protest” against Beijing, after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana questioned the presence of Chinese research vessels and warships in Philippine waters.

Lorenzana, in an interview with ANC yesterday, urged the Philippine government to ask Beijing why Chinese research vessels and warships are entering Philippine waters.

He said nobody is prevented from doing research in the area as long as the Philippine government is informed beforehand.

According to Ryan Martinson, an assistant professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute of the US Naval War College, the Chinese oceanographic survey ships Zhanjian and Dong Fang Hong 3 have been conducting marine scientific research in the country’s exclusive economic zone this week.

Martinson said Zhanjian has been operating in the Philippines’ EEZ since Saturday while Dong Fang Hong 3 was spotted near northern Luzon on Wednesday.

Locsin earlier said he would rather wait for information coming from the military before taking action. Last month, he said a diplomatic protest was filed against China over the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

Malacañang also gave assurance yesterday that the government will always be on guard against possible intrusions in Philippine territories and that it is just waiting for the report from Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

Meanwhile, Duterte said the Philippines and China could start the talks without touching on the validity of who is the real owner of the disputed areas, adding that he is open to the China-proposed 60-40 sharing agreement in favor of the Philippines. 

“But the more important is DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea), the ownership, the COC plus the minerals to be extracted. And they have proposed a 60-40. That’s OK with me. But that could be a later topic if we have time,” he pointed out.

Duterte, who earlier claimed that an aggressive stance on the South China Sea row could lead to conflict, stressed he is not allowed to accept China’s ownership claims. 

“We are not allowed to accept that China owns it because of the arbitral ruling. And even before, we were claiming it... But I’d like to assure also. I would not allow any foreign troops. I do not want trouble. Not the Chinese, not the Koreans, not the Americans, not anybody else except Filipino troops,” he said. 

Last June, Duterte said Xi had told him that there would be “trouble” if the Philippines digs oil in the West Philippine Sea. Duterte has repeatedly said he would not declare a war with China over the maritime dispute because it would lead to a “massacre” of Filipino troops. 

Asked what he would do if Xi warns him of trouble again after invoking the arbitral ruling issued weeks into his administration in July 2016, Duterte replied: “Then I will think about it. I will just keep it to myself first because at that stage nothing would really be a very significant development.”

“But once we have set the agenda, I talked first about jurisdiction, the COC, and the exploitation of the natural resources of my country since as far as I’m concerned, we own it. So that is my position. We still own what we are claiming,” he added. 

The President said he would also discuss the arbitral ruling with Xi because his term is about to end soon. “It’s about time that we start talking. Now is the time. I only have a few months left (in power).”

Following the expected talks on the disputed areas and planned joint exploration projects, Zhao assured that China will not insist on a bigger share of gas and oil resources.

The percentage of share has to be negotiated and settled under the guidance of the two countries, he noted.

“Whether 60-40 or 39-61, it is up to the enterprises to decide. But there is one thing I can assure, China will not insist on the larger share than that of the Philippines. From the perspective of the government, it is up to the enterprises of the two sides,” Zhao said. – Helen Flores, Alexis Romero, Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude

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