Locsin: Not the right time to disagree over South China Sea

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Locsin: Not the right time to disagree over South China Sea

MANILA, Philippines — Amid the Duterte government’s apparent change in tune over the South China Sea, the Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said it is not the right time to bring up disagreements over the maritime dispute.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier called on the government to “unshelve” Manila’s 2016 arbitration win.

Malacañang, however, insisted that the Duterte administration “never shelved” the arbitral award that invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

“This is actually not the right time to bring up disagreements over the South China/West Philippine Sea with both sides hot under the collar while a pissing contest is in full flower,” Locsin said in a tweet Monday.

Hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels, believed to be part of its maritime militia, have been loitering in the vicinity of Pag-asa Island, one the largest features in the Spratly Islands.

“But ‘swarming in unison’ is definitely not traditional fishing under any definition,” Locsin added.

Responding to a netizen who questioned the “sudden pivot” of the administration on he South China Sea dispute, the Philippines’ top diplomat said “they wanted to make the best of a situation that was legally right but militarily weak.”

Locsin also noted that the Philippines failed to arm itself like Vietnam on international disagreements.

“What is important… is that those in power to do something — even if not much until the Americans come in full force which they will not because they are looking for a trade deal — to correct for a change in circumstances,” Locsin told the netizen.

Del Rosario: Time to bring up arbitral ruling

Over the weekend, Del Rosario said now is the right time for the Duterte government to bring up the arbitration ruling with China.

Del Rosario, who led the Philippines in its arbitration against China, earlier filed a communication before the International Criminal Court to conduct a preliminary examination for Beijing’s “near permanent and devastating destruction” of features in the contested waterway.

“Beijing is now clearly revisiting its excessive and unlawful claims in the South China Sea that has been ruled upon by the arbitral tribunal which ruling is ow an integral part of international law,” Del Rosario told radio dzMM last Saturday.

Presidential spoksperson Salvador Panelo, on the other hand, claimed that the administration never changed its position on the arbitral ruling.

“We reiterate our unchanged stance — the arbitral ruling is irreversible, the same being based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and international law accepted by most, if not by all, nations. It has the stamp of permanence,” Panelo said in a statement released Sunday.

Panelo called on the Chinese government to respect the arbitral ruling “that has the stamp of permanence.”

“It only remains unenforceable because no foreign force seems persuaded to help us enforce it, and neither do we have the capability of enforcing it alone by force, not to mention the fact that performing armed acts of enforcement could only trigger a bloody war that could cost the lives of our countrymen and destruction of properties in our land,” Panelo said.