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Disputed West Philippine Sea issue

The Palace expects international law will prevail in finally settling the disputed West Philippine Sea issue after the Philippines elevated its cause to the international tribunal.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacanang Wednesday that the Palace also expects China and the Philippines, being signatories to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to observe the laws and the rules of UNCLOS.

“We feel that now is the time to raise (it) before the arbitral tribunal. This is on the basis of a rules-based approach to resolving the issues in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Referring to a statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Lacierda said the Philippines has already exhausted almost all possible means to settle the dispute peacefully based on the government’s three-way track—legal, political, and diplomatic.

“The Palace has taken the position that this is a rules-based approach. Our approach in going through the arbitral tribunal is the legal way that we have been saying and Secretary Del Rosario has the full confidence of the President—the President being the chief policymaker,” he added.

Despite the case being brought to the international tribunal, it’s not the end-all and be-all for the Philippine-China relations, Lacierda said.

He said the two countries have an active engagement with each other in several other fields and they can continue to move forward with their people-to-people engagements and trade relations.

“This matter has been given over to the international tribunal and we’ll let the international tribunal decide on this matter. This is not the crux of our RP-China relations and certainly we do not intend, and China itself does not intend, to view the RP-China relations as the West Philippine Sea (being) our only issue”

In a briefer released by the Dept. of Foreign Affairs, it said it is the constitutional mandate of the President to pursue the national interest and defend the Philippine territory and maritime domain, which is why the Philippines is bringing the issue forward for international arbitration.

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