"MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines, this year's host of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit (ASEAN), will not raise the Permanent Court of Arbitration's ruling on the South China Sea dispute.
"Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said that the Philippines will raise the matter in future bilateral talks with China and not during the ASEAN Summit.
"This is a battle that we will be raising with China at some future time on bilateral talks and to do and involve others in the discussion of this decision would be counter-productive for our purposes," Yasay said in a press conference on Wednesday."
Some legal experts fear that not raising the issue in multilateral fora like ASEAN might weaken our long term legal and political position in the dispute. They feel this is a weapon we should use to pursue our claim which should reach the UN General Assembly. Although I can read and understand this administration's strategy of maximizing the economic benefits that could accrue to the country between now and 2022 with a friendlier Philippine-China relations.
The question is: Are the economic benefits an equitable trade-off compared to jeopardizing our position on the West Philippine Sea, 90% of which China is claiming with their nine dash line? We are talking here of around one million square kilometers of EEZ (our total EEZ under UNCLOS is around 2.2 million square kilometers) with all its natural resources and minerals, living and non-living and its strategic value to the Philippines.
The Philippines as host would however be placed in an awkward position if another party, like Vietnam, will raise the issue and ask that it be included in the Joint Statement. Vietnam is a beneficiary of the repudiation by the PCA of the nine dash line. Indonesia is also a beneficiary since the nine dash line overlaps with its Natuna EEZ. How would the Philippines respond and manage that possibility of Vietnam or Indonesia or other parties raising the issue?