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Former Philippine officials urge gov't to talk with China bilaterally, ignore arbitral ruling

Editor: Zhang Pengfei 丨Xinhua

07-14-2016 08:25 BJT

Full coverage: The South China Sea Issue

MANILA, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Former Philippine senior government officials Wednesday called on the Duterte administration to start bilateral talks with China immediately while ignoring the award issued by an ad hoc arbitral tribunal on the South China Sea issue Tuesday.

"The negotiation must start immediately. And the arbitral ruling is both useless and irrelevant," said Valdes, former undersecretary of Philippine Department of Education.

Valdes questioned the validity of the award which claims Taiping Island as a rock despite the fact that the island has an airstrip, a hospital, several buildings and fresh water.

"There is something wrong with the so called arbitration court," he said.

For Alberto Encomienda, former secretary-general of the Maritime and Ocean Affairs Center of the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department, the Philippines should not have taken the case to the tribunal in the first place.

He agrees with Valdes that the two governments should start to reconnect and talk bilaterally to solve the disputes as soon as possible.

In addition, the maritime expert believed "if judged objectively, the ruling cannot be a leverage for the Philippines."

"Let's begin from the beginning, rewind the clock, and go into consultations leading to negotiations and at the same time we work on joint development."

They have also voiced concern over the U.S. intervention into this regional issue.

"The U.S. has been intervening too much in this region, even including on the matter of arbitration," said Encomienda.

When asked whether PCA's award will intensify conflict or even confrontation in the region, Encomienda said, "if left to the two of us (China and the Philippines), the ruling should not intensify anything."

According to him, that's because right after the arbitral ruling came down, China issued a statement saying it adheres to the position of settling the issue through negotiation. And on the Philippine side, President Duterte said earlier that he did not want any war.

"However, if there is U.S. intervention in the region, that's a different story," he added.

Encomienda further pointed out that if China and the Philippines start bilateral talks, the whole ASEAN will be more willing to cooperate on the South China Sea issue, which is not a situation that the U.S. wants to see.

by Wang Wen, Yang Tianmu

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