China’s Unconstitutional and Violating Proposals in Maritime Dispute with the Philippines: Department of Foreign Affairs Responds

Department of Foreign Affairs
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Beijing’s Proposals and the Philippine Response

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has responded to Beijing’s proposals regarding the maritime dispute with Manila, stating that some of these proposals are against the Philippines’ interests and would violate both the Philippine Constitution and international law. The DFA’s statement comes in response to a headline story published by The Manila Times on March 11, which quoted an anonymous high-ranking embassy source from China.

The DFA clarified that it did not ignore China’s proposals but instead submitted counter-proposals that were developed through extensive internal consultations. While a few of China’s proposals were considered workable, many others were found to be contrary to the Philippines’ national interests after careful study and deliberation within the Philippine government.

Despite the Philippine government’s efforts to present its counter-proposals, China responded with its own counter-proposals that did not reflect the Philippines’ interests, particularly concerning the South China Sea. These matters were further discussed during the 8th Bilateral Consultation Meeting (BCM) on the South China Sea, which took place in Shanghai, China on January 17, 2024.

The Ayungin Shoal Proposal

One of the proposals raised by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong in March 2023 referred to a so-called gentleman’s agreement. China insisted on actions that would be seen as acquiescence or recognition of China’s control and administration over the Ayungin Shoal as its territory. However, the DFA emphasized that the Ayungin Shoal is part of the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. Therefore, the Philippine government could not consider China’s proposal without violating the Philippine Constitution or international law.

The DFA also emphasized that any agreement or understanding reached with a foreign government should not only be in accordance with mutual interests but should also not undermine the Philippine Constitution or denigrate the legally-settled rights of the Philippines under international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award.

Philippine Approach and Surprises

The DFA reiterated that the Philippines is approaching these confidential negotiations with utmost sincerity and good faith. Therefore, the disclosure of sensitive details from the bilateral discussions by China was surprising to the Philippine government.

Upon receiving China’s proposals, the Philippine government immediately undertook a serious study and consideration of all of them. The DFA engaged in lengthy and in-depth consultations with various concerned Philippine government agencies that have primary competence or functional mandate over the topics and issues raised in the Chinese concept papers. Additionally, several rounds of internal discussions and deliberations were conducted within the DFA to carefully consider the Chinese proposals.

During the BCM, both the Philippines and China agreed that continuous dialogue is crucial for maintaining peace and stability at sea. The BCM was held following an agreement between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Asia Pacific Economic Forum in the United States in November 2023. The objective of the agreement was to ease and manage tensions in the South China Sea.

In conclusion, the DFA’s response to Beijing’s proposals highlights the Philippines’ commitment to upholding its national interests, the Philippine Constitution, and international law. The Philippine government has engaged in extensive internal consultations and discussions to carefully consider China’s proposals. While some proposals were deemed workable, many were found to be contrary to the Philippines’ interests. The Philippines remains committed to continuous dialogue with China to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Source: The Manila Times

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