Philippines never abandoned bilateral talks with China over sea dispute – Sec. Yasay

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said some of his counterparts expressed concern over the alleged continued militarization in the West Philippine Sea.

Secretary Yasay said, “On the South China Sea, a number of ministers expressed concern over recent developments and escalation of activity in the area which may further raise tensions and erode trust and confidence in the region.”

Thus, some of the foreign ministers believe it is important for the Philippines to continue having dialogues with China to resolve the territorial dispute in the region.

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During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or Foreign Ministers Retreat on Boracay Island on Tuesday, Yasay said they are focusing now on bigger aspects of ASEAN integration since discussions on the West Philippine Sea dispute remain on deadlock.

Yasay added,“Since the decision of our dispute in the South China Sea is not the sum total of our relationship with China, we set it aside. We started to pursue the bigger aspects of our relationship which is promoting trade, promoting investments and pursuing to the hilt those areas where we have a convergence of natural interest to make sure that we could come up with something most beneficial mutually for the parties concerned.”

Despite this, the foreign ministers still insist on the importance of resolving the issue through peaceful means and according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

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Sec. Yasay said the Philippines is ready to have bilateral talks with China, which shall be conducted at the right time.

“The arbitral tribunal ruling in July 12, 2016 is something that we will have to pursue with China through bilateral engagements and we have not abandoned that.”

Meanwhile, ASEAN senior officials together with representatives from the Philippines will have a meeting in the United States in May.

Sec. Yasay said he hopes to personally talk with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during the said meeting.

“I would hope that this could be done as soon as possible. It would be very important for us as I am sure it will be important for the United States in our desire to forge closer ties and closer relationships with the two countries.” — Jun Soriao, UNTV News & Rescue

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