Amid poll on China-held islands, Palace admits ‘problem’ in West Philippine Sea
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is resigned to the fact that Beijing has control over islands that Manila also claims in the West Philippine Sea but will pursue diplomatic negotiations on the issue, it said.
This was in response to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey which found that 93% of Filipinos said it is important for the government to regain control of China-held islands in the West Philippine Sea.
“For now, because there is a problem on the claim of ownership, we will resort to diplomatic negotiations,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing.
According to Panelo, this is the strategy that President Rodrigo Duterte has decided on.
Asked if the Philippines has a chance of regaining control of China-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea, Panelo said the government does not know the chances “but we’re doing it.” He did not elaborate on how the Philippines is doing it and what “it” is.
Panelo also commented that all Filipinos should consider the importance of taking control over the islands in Philippine waters.
“It should be 100%. All Filipinos would want to have control over the areas that are supposed to be ours but the reality us we have a problem there because China claims to own it too,” Panelo said.
Duterte held a similar position on the presence of a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank, which is inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
“[T]hat area is claimed by both. For China, it happened within their jurisdiction. For us, it was within our jurisdiction. Because we have two conflicting claims,” he said in June.
The survey conducted from June 22 to 26 found that 74% of the respondents said this matter was “very important”, 19% said it was “somewhat important”, 1% said it was “somewhat not important”, 1% said it was “not at all important” and 4% were undecided.
Just last year, China deployed anti-ship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jamming equipment on its “big three” artificial islands — Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef — in the South China Sea.
The United Nations-backed tribunal ruled in July 2016 that Mischief Reef is within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. The country also has claims over Fiery Cross and Subi Reefs.