By Genalyn Kabiling
Any proposal to seek the assistance of the United States to address the country’s territorial row with China will require a “serious study” by President Duterte, according to a Palace official.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo maintained that it was prudent to wait for the President’s decision on such a serious matter.
“We will wait for the President’s decision on that. These are serious matters and require serious study,” he said during a Palace press briefing.
Panelo made the remark after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. reportedly suggested turning to the US amid the dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.
The government earlier protested the presence of more than 200 Chinese vessels around Pag-asa Island, insisting the territory belongs to the Philippines.
China, however, countered the county’s claims, saying Nansha Islands or locally known as Spratlys islands were within its territory.
Asked what will prompt the President to get US help, Panelo said: “We will wait for the President’s decision on that. It has to be studied.”
For now, Panelo maintained that the government prefers to settle the territorial dispute through bilateral negations with China.
The issue about the Chinese presence in Pag-asa Island may be tackled in the President’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing next week, he added.
“Kasi wala namang iba sa ngayon na pupuwede. In the meanwhile, negotiations tayo [Because there is no other possible option left. In the meanwhile, we’ll have negotiations],” he said.
He noted that the President has called on China to lay off Pag-asa Island, effectively invoking the arbitral ruling that invalided Beijing’s sweeping nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.
Panelo earlier said the administration never shelved the country’s arbitral win on the West Philippine Sea dispute, and even urged China to respect the ruling.
Although it remains unenforceable, the arbitral ruling, based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is “irreversible,” and has “the stamp of permanence,” Panelo said.