‘Arbitral, Supreme Court rulings must figure in new China talks’


SEN. Francis N. Tolentino prodded the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to carefully study the government’s plan to have another round of exploratory talks with the People’s Republic of China.

Before entering into another partnership with the Asian superpower, Tolentino said the DFA should consider the 2016 Hague Arbitral ruling as well as the recent Supreme Court decision which invalidated and declared unconstitutional the 2005 Tripartite Agreement for Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU).

“Dapat po siguro yung pakikipag-usap o gagawing pakikipag-usap sa People’s Republic of China ng DFA, eh isaalang-alang itong desisyon ng Supreme Court…at isaalang-alang din yung nilalaman ng ating Saligang Batas base po sa ating karapatan sa ating exclusive economic zone [Perhaps the planned engagement with China by DFA should consider this SC decision…and consider as well what our Constitution says based on our experience with our exclusive economic zone],” Tolentino, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said in a radio interview over the weekend.

He recalled that the 2016 Arbitral Ruling basically invalidated China’s “nine-dash line” claim—the basis of their supposed militaristic expansion in the entire South China Sea region, including the zone along the West Philippine Sea—as well as the SC decision of the Supreme Court in January voiding the JMSU between the governments of the Philippines, China and Vietnam.

The lawmaker likewise  stressed that any new agreement between the Philippines and China should comply with the provisions enshrined under the 1987 Constitution before planning to undertake any joint exploration of mineral seabed resources within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ)—which was also mentioned in the 2016 Arbitral Ruling.

“So dalawa po iyan, hindi lang dapat po sila makipag-usap, mag-prepare kung ano yung gagawin. So, dapat po lahat ito kargo nila ‘yung pag protekta sa ating [On those two points, they should prepare before the talks. In all these, it’s their burden to protect our] exclusive economic zone, 200 nautical miles from the baseline, [and the SC decision]  Korte Suprema,” he added.

The senator admitted that he is quite hesitant over plans of having new rounds of talks with China, considering the series of bullying incidents in the past months in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), involving the China Coast Guard and the Chinese Maritime Militia against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

“We may see more Chinese boatrs in the WPS, because now they’ll say we have the right to drill, to conduct scientific marine research—they just might do that, so perhaps it’s best that our Department of Foreign Affairs proceed with caution. Because they might expand their presence, there may be more incidentns of abuse,” said the senator, speaking mostly in Filipino.

“Since the matter involves foreign policy and national security, it’s only proper that the Senate must be involved in any future exploratory talks with China,” Tolentino stressed.

Image credits: AP