FORMER Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday said President-elect Rodrigo Duterte had given assurance that there would be no bilateral talks with China to resolve the territorial dispute in the South China Sea in the next two years.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also said the Philippine panel in the arbitration proceedings against China had received the same assurance from Duterte.
Del Rosario led the Philippine panel that argued the country’s case against China in the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
Carpio, who has done an extensive study on the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, was an observer in the proceedings.
The Philippines has asked the UN tribunal to invalidate China’s claim to almost all of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea and demanded its right to exploit resources in waters within its 370-km exclusive economic zone, recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, be respected.
China has refused to take part in the proceedings, saying it will not abide by any ruling of the court.
The court is expected to hand down its decision by July 7.
In a television interview on June 10, incoming Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said bilateral negotiations with China were necessary, as the UN court had no powers to enforce its rulings.
“We feel that the ruling will require bilateral talks with China, then by all means let’s pursue that. Let’s not drop that possibility,” Yasay said.
In an interview with the Inquirer on June 3, Yasay said bilateral negotiations were “always the way to go in so far as resolving this conflict is concerned.”
“Even if we get a favorable judgment from the arbitral tribunal, there might be some questions of enforcement or implementation of this decision, [because] the court does not have an enforcement capability,” he said.
The arbitration panel has asked the incoming administration to wait for the tribunal’s decision before moving for talks with China.
“I don’t think [Duterte] would go bilateral,” Del Rosario said in an interview after attending the Trident Defense and Security Forum at Solaire Resorts in Pasay City on Friday.
“We talked already and the [incoming] President said he [would] wait for developments over a two-year period and, if nothing happens, he would go bilateral,” Del Rosario said.
Carpio, a guest speaker at the forum, said the Philippines had “convinced the world to support us that the arbitration is the way to go.”
“So we will wait for the tribunal and we will decide [what measures to take to have the ruling enforced],” he said.
In his presentation at the security forum, Carpio said the Philippines would need to take legal and diplomatic tacks, including elevating the case to the United Nations itself, to have the ruling enforced.
“There is no world policeman to enforce the ruling of the arbitration [court], but we are not helpless,” he said.
Once China moved a gas platform to Recto Bank (Reed Bank), a reef in the Spratly archipelago claimed by the Philippines, Carpio said Manila could file a lawsuit against Beijing where the Chinese have assets, like Canada and the United States.
With a favorable ruling from the arbitration court, the Philippines can win the suit in Canada and seize the assets of China’s national oil company in Canada as payment for the gas that China will get from Recto Bank, he said.