President Rodrigo Duterte has never changed his position to settle the West Philippine Sea (WPS) dispute through diplomatic means without giving up an inch of the Philippine territory, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement in response to Duterte’s previous remark that trouble could erupt if China would attempt to unilaterally exploit resources, particularly oil, in the WPS.
“He has never changed his tune. He has been consistent,” Roque told a Palace press briefing.
“Nothing. Because what we’re discussing is joint exploration, and he warned against unilateral exploration,” he replied when asked if the remark would affect the joint exploration talks between the Philippines and China.
Roque, an international law expert, said the Philippines will continue to pursue cooperation on areas where the two countries can agree upon while maintaining the status quo “on areas that we cannot agree upon.”
“It’s just that there’s no point, there’s no point openly picking up a fight with China because that’s counterproductive,” he said, adding that the resolution of the actual territorial dispute in the WPS “will not happen soon.”
Philippine-Chinese relations have improved a lot after Duterte decided to temporarily shelve an international arbitration court’s decision nullifying China’s nine-dash line map that covers nearly the whole of WPS or South China Sea.
Duterte made the decision to give way to friendly and peaceful dialogues aimed at resolving both contentious and non-contentious issues.
He, however, told Xi that he would raise again the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling before his term expires in 2022. PNA