Lacking the capability to enforce the Philippines’s rights in the West Philippine Sea, Manila will maintain the status quo in territories also being claimed by other countries, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday, September 14, 2016.
Delfin made the disclosure before the House committee on appropriations during the hearing for the Department of National Defense’s proposed P178.2 billion budget for 2017.
Following the previous administration’s falling out with China, President Duterte has called for bilateral talks with Beijing over the resource-rich waters. Duterte has been perceived as favoring China over long-time ally, the United States.
“As per the pronouncement of the President, we will maintain status quo in the West Philippine Sea so that there would be no miscalculations,” Lorenzana said.
“We don’t have any assets to confront the other claimants in the area,” he added.
The Philippines won its maritime case against China over the West Philippine Sea, after the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague ruled that Beijing’s nine-dash line claim to almost all of the South China Sea had no historic and legal basis. The tribunal said the West Philippine Sea was within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Duterte expressed willingness to open bilateral talks with China even as Beijing continued to build artificial islands within the Philippines’s EEZ and shun Filipino fishermen from resource-rich waters and marine features like the Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.