Philippines says it rejected China offer of talks on South China Sea

An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged on-going land reclamation by China on mischief reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool

An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged on-going land reclamation by China on mischief reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool

The Philippines has turned down a Chinese proposal to start bilateral talks on their South China Sea dispute, its foreign minister said on Tuesday, because of Beijing’s pre-condition of not discussing a court ruling that nullified most of its claims.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims.

Perfecto Yasay said he had met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of a meeting of Asian and European leaders in Mongolia at the weekend and after raising the topic of last week’s ruling, it became clear that was a no-go area.

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday night that the two ministers had “informal contact” in Mongolia.

Wang said if the Philippines was willing to resume talks, manage divisions and improve relations, China would meet it halfway, according to the statement.

China has angrily rejected the verdict by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and the initial case as illegal and farcical. It has repeatedly said it will not change its approach or its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

“They said if you will insist on the ruling, discussing it along those lines, then we might be headed for a confrontation,” Yasay said during an interview with the news channel of broadcaster ABS-CBN.

“But I really honestly feel that this is something they have to make on a public basis but I also sensed there was room for us to talk very quietly using backdoor channeling.”

Yasay said Wang had proposed bilateral talks but only on issues “outside, or (in) disregard of, the arbitral ruling”, which he declined because it was not in the Philippines’ national interests.

The Chinese foreign ministry’s account of Wang’s remarks struck a more conciliatory tone and did not mention pre-conditions.

“Promoting a return to dialogue in China-Philippine relations is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and their people,” the statement said Wang emphasized.

Yasay’s account of the meeting highlights the challenge ahead for the Philippines, a U.S. ally, in getting China to comply with the decision which has ramped up tensions in the vital trade route.

The ruling laid out what maritime rights Manila had and where Beijing had violated its rights under international law, including its massive construction works on Mischief Reef.

Manila wanted to enforce the points of the complex ruling step-by-step but as a priority had asked China to let its fishermen go to the contested Scarborough Shoal without being harassed by its coastguard, Yasay said.

China’s coastguard was preventing Filipino boats from fishing around Scarborough Shoal, fishermen and officials said on Friday, and China’s air force has released pictures showing bombers recently flying over the area.

(Reporting by Karen Lema and Martin Petty; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast)


9 Comments on “Philippines says it rejected China offer of talks on South China Sea”

  1. Dora Ron says:

    So nice of you to share your story. Love it!


  2. Steve says:

    If ASEAN can agree that this farcical arbitration is irrelevant and the law abusing PCA has exercised its jurisdiction above international legal law, then the PH govt. claims and respect for the award would be groundless. In the past fortnight, several forums conducted in Hongkong and Singapore by international law experts has in fact condemned the arbitration as illegal and farcical. It is a maritime circus initiated and sponsored by PH/US alliance to divide and conquer the SCS territorial waters. China has international law on its side and increasing support by scholars, legal entities and nations.


  3. Simon says:

    More like China has rejected Phillipines offer for talks.


  4. Fre Okin says:

    Look at the rotten situation the previous Aquino admin have left for the new Duterte admin. This PCA poison is PH own doing. Naturally PH cannot just ignore the PCA ‘victory’ or Duterte will look weak. China should wait a few months and let PH nationalists pride and headline news fade away. Meanwhile let PH fishermen back into Scarborough Shoal/Huangyan Island. This will set the stage for PH to quietly drop PCA ruling as basis for bilateral talk.

    China should also point out to PH the idiocy of classifying Taiping Island as a rock. What this mean is all PH islands are rocks also, including Thitu island. China should tell PH and also VN, by classifying genuine islands in the Spratlys as rocks, it actually harm PH and also VN in particular. China can send Swarms of fishing boats to fish within 12 NM of their ‘rocks’ island and soon there will be no fish left around Thitu island etc. See how silly this rock designation is? It harm PH and VN more than China or Taiwan.

    Seriously PCA judges were influenced to call all of the Spratly island as rocks because US in particular fear one day ICJ could rule all the islands in the Spratlys, those in the Nine Dotted/Dash Lines are Chinese Islands, not rocks and with it comes 200 NM EEZ, giving China a huge area of control in the South China Sea. So this island misclassification as rock is political in nature, to deny China more sea control in the South China Sea and we know who is scheming to make this happen. VN, PH, Taiwan are victims of this island as rock scheme, not China.


    • Simon says:

      Letting Fillipino fishermen into Scarborough Shoal so soon without precondition on the back of the illegal arbitration would make China look weak. The right position to take is to deny Fillipinos access and enforce China’s sovereignty. When the Phillipines realise they are at a lost and realise the PCA is powerless they will want to negotiate under China’s condition that is rejecting the illegal arbitration.


  5. johnleecan says:

    If I remember it right, before the illegal PCA issued a ruling, the Philippine government said they are willing to discuss with China no matter what the outcome is and that they will not use the ruling as a condition.

    China should not have considered discussing with Philippine government anymore. After the ruling, China should have said they have exhausted all means to resolve the issues with the Philippine government.

    Just like I said before, Filipinos can’t be trusted. They would wipe the butt of Americans even without them(Americans) asking them. Just showing their butt will make the Filipinos rushing to see who will be first to wipe their butt.


    • Fre Okin says:

      The new PH government is a new one. Maybe we should excuse their change of heart after they see nationalists forces making loud complaints and also China do not want to look weak by allowing their fishermen into Scarborough Shoal/Huangyan island so fast. Let the situation calm down a bit, give it a couple of weeks or months and China quietly let their fishermen in to fish. Then they will feel better and reciprocate. China should let them fish. No big deal and also generate a lot of goodwill. What China really want with Scarborough Shoal/Huangyan island is military advantage to checkmate US, not just the fishery.


      • Steve says:

        True – Huangyan island is an important strategic location for China’s military. It can even be used as bargaining chips should China wish to sell it. The PH would want to own it, but China has historical records of ownership. Furthermore, China cannot afford to let the PH fishermen fish in the shoal, in case relationships turn for the worst due to political interest. Then, it would be difficult and bad image for China to chase them away the 2nd time around. Huangyan island is China’s trump card, less than 150 miles from PH. China’s claimed ownership of the island is an absolute irritant for the Philippines govt., in fact it was said that the main reason for Aquino to initiate arbitration with the support of the perpetrators US was due to China’s control over Huangyan island.