Stronger ties with China eyed vs. removing West Philippine Sea bases

According to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the Philippines has no capability to remove the Chinese bases in the West Philippine Sea and the only paramount solution is to build stronger ties with its allies.

He agreed with President Rodrigo Duterte that the government should establish stronger ties with China on the basis of bilateral relations.

“That is our policy, to have friendly ties with China, and even with Korea and Japan. But we should not also forget our long relations with the US, as well as Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and India,” Esperon said in a forum.

According to the Security adviser, it is prudent for the Philippines to maintain “an independent foreign policy that allows us to have our relations with other countries based on our national interests.”

Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque said that while conflicting claims to the territorial dispute have yet to be resolved through negotiation and diplomatic relations, the President will continue to pursue friendly relations with China in contrast to the antagonistic position taken by his predecessor.

“The President reiterated that he will not surrender the Philippine territory, but the policy is on matters which are not controversial, such as trade and investments. We will proceed full speed ahead,” said Roque.

According to Roque, the President is firm in his stance that any country that wishes to conduct research or any other study in the Philippine Rise would first need to secure approval of the Philippine government through the National Security Adviser.

The President has previously said the Philippines will not go to war with China and let Filipino soldiers be butchered.

“We do not have any capabilities to remove them. What country would dare to remove them?” Esperon said.

However, the President said that he will not surrender any inch, even a single inch of Philippine territory to any foreigner.

“The President’s position is that the ruling of the UN Tribunal on the Law of the Sea has finally decided. One, that China cannot claim any of the waters of the West Philippine Sea on the basis of historic title or on the basis of the nine-dash lines; and two, that Scarborough and the area where China has built artificial islands are part and parcel of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone,” Roque said.

“The President is of the opinion that this is authoritative evidence of the customary norm of international law applicable and is certainly authority that China cannot make claims on the basis of historic waters,” Roque added.

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