Manila: The Philippine government back-pedalled from its earlier pugnacious and strong stance against China with regard to overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, and declared a friendly foreign policy with the second largest economy in the world, with the help of the United Nations, following China’s threat to impose economic sanctions on ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), a local paper reported.
“For the record, we do place a great value in our relationship with China,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“As close friends with incredible people-to-people ties, China and the Philippines are endeavouring to manage whatever challenges there are [in their friendship], in a constructive manner on the basis of equality, respect and understanding,” del Rosario said.
The Philippines and the Asean are working “to have the elements of our actionable framework towards segregating the disputed from the undisputed areas [in the South China Sea] to be included in the drafting of the Code of Conduct [among claimants in the Spratlys],” del Rosario said when asked about concrete acts by the Philippines to bridge its over-blown gap in foreign relations with China.
“We are also exploring how best to pursue a dispute settlement mechanism among the options offered under the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) for the purpose of validating our claim [in the Spratlys],” said del Rosario, who reiterated the importance of the UN in solving a potential flashpoint in the region.
China is expected to agree to the Philippine government’s position on the issue, said del Rosario, but analysts said the Philippine government has back-pedalled and softened its earlier stance versus China.
Earlier, the Global Times, published by the Communist Party of China, explicitly said economic sanctions could be imposed on the Philippines with the recent announcement that more American soldiers will be allowed in the country.
China also threatened to “cool down” business activities with the Philippines.
At the same time, China included its threat with the rest of Asean.
“It should show China’s neighbouring areas that balancing China by siding with the US is not a good choice. Well-measured sanctions against the Philippines will make it ponder the choice of losing a friend such as China and being a vain partner of the US,” the Global Times editorial said.