The relationship between the Philippines and China is not confined to the dispute between – and the differing claims of – the two countries over the West Philippine Sea. Neither is the relationship of the two nations measured by the same nor is it confined thereat.

Proceeding from such reasoning, the President deems it wise and prudent that this kind of relationship should bear fruit by entering into a co-production, joint venture, or a production-sharing agreement with China that would help us explore, develop or utilize our natural resources in the said maritime area, even as we continue to dialogue peacefully for the resolution of the conflict in the West Philippine Sea.

The President has not abandoned, nor is he abandoning, and neither will he ever abandon the favorable arbitral award issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, more so with respect to our rights in the West Philippine Sea.

Time and time again, PRRD has stressed this fact – the arbitral ruling is final, binding and unappealable. It is there forever and ever, as in forever. Not only is it carved in stone but it is as permanent as the sun rising on the east.

We find it amusing if not exasperating why some quarters keep on insisting at some hairsplitting alternate interpretations of the President’s foreign policy relative to the issue.

As for Justice Antonio Carpio, he appears to relish in finding fault in what the President says even if there is none. We recall, however, that it was Justice Carpio himself who said that he has no objections if we pursue a joint exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea, stating that “the proposal of 60–40 in our favor would be a good start” and admitting that, “despite everything, [PRRD] might be the President who will find the solution to the South China Sea dispute.”

The good Justice can rest assured that the President is always finding ways to resolve the dispute and will not waive any right nor give any consent that will undermine our sovereign claims in the process.

For the umpteenth time, we reiterate that what the President means when he said that we will first set aside the ruling to come up with a viable economic activity in the West Philippine Sea is that – we would, in the meantime, divert our focus to something that would benefit our country in the midst of the impasse with China on our territorial dispute. That is not to say, however, that we will totally forget about the said ruling and waive our sovereign rights as laid out therein.

We should remember that diplomatic negotiations to resolve the conflicting claims of the countries anent the issue are ongoing and we are mandating our officials to continue invoking our claims over the exclusive economic zone as against the position of China.

The Philippine government, as a matter of policy and principle, continues to assert its rights over the West Philippine Sea, and this, despite whatever reluctance or objections there may be on the part of China in recognizing our rights over our exclusive economic zone therein.

If there is no force in the meantime in any part of the world that can enforce the arbitral ruling , neither is there any force on earth that can compel or intimidate the Philippines into abandoning or waiving it.

Salvador S. Panelo

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel

& Presidential Spokesperson

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