“We have strengthened and not abandoned our claims in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said in a forum hosted by educational organization Asia Society in New York held September 21.
“We have changed the strategy and not the objective, we have changed our framework of how to approach the fight for our claims but we have not changed our stand that we will continue to fight for every square inch that we believe is part of Philippine territory, not only part of sovereignty rights, not only part of UNCLOS, but part of our territory,” Cayetano said.
“We are not saying that the Aquino administration is wrong, most probably it was the best thing to do at that time, to file the arbitration case,” he added. “But the arbitration case have three objectives: to question the nine-dash line, to clarify the nature of the features, and to establish the Philippine entitlements.”
“Once we won the arbitration case ruling, the challenge is how to implement it,” Cayetano said. “If we continued the Aquino administration strategy of a shouting match or embarrassing China or trying to out reason them in every multilateral, we were winning in world opinion and on paper but we were losing on the ground.”
“Our fishermen will not be allowed to fish, more and more [Chinese] navy ships, everyone was building not only China but all the other claimants were also building, and since we have less resources we were left behind in fortifying our position – but by re-calibrating and by creating a bilateral consultative mechanism with China we have put back on track our fight for our claims,” the foreign affairs secretary added.
He noted that Filipino fishermen are now back in West Philippine Sea. “We have tentative fishery agreement, we have an agreement for preservation, for marine protection,” he said.
“It’s an ongoing strategy but what we are saying is we acknowledge the gains of the past administration but we have to make a decision now on what is in the national interest of the country and how we can help regional peace and stability,” Cayetano said.