President Aquino hopes Philippines would be able to cope with future South China Sea challenges

Two weeks before leaving office, President Benigno S. Aquino III said he hopes the country would be better prepared to address the challenges posed by the International Arbitral Tribunal’s decision on the case filed by the Philippines against China.

In an interview in Binondo, Manila on Friday, the President was asked to comment on recent developments in the South China Sea, as well as the statement of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) following a regional meeting with China.

Parati tayong curious kung ano ang nangyayari sa China domestically, which might impact international relations and everybody is presuming that there is a decision by the arbitral tribunal that will come out sometime soon,” the President said.

He said he wants to have a picture of what the “post-decision situation” would be and “try to look at differences or the nuisances of the messaging that comes out of China”.

“At the end of the day, I would want to have the country prepared to address this challenge, which is not a challenge I brought upon this country. From the ’70s, this has already been a problem and I think we have done what we can to advance having a resolution that is fair to all parties concerned,” he said.

Noting that Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras has not reported to him on what occurred during the ASEAN-China foreign ministers’ meeting, the President said he did not want to comment without a complete picture of what happened during the meeting.

On Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs issued the retracted statement of the ASEAN on tensions in the South China Sea.

The department said that the ASEAN foreign ministers expressed serious concerns over the developments in the disputed waters during their meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The ASEAN foreign ministers issued a statement on Tuesday night following a special ASEAN-China meeting in Kunming, Yunnan province in China. 

The tough statement on the South China Sea was retracted as it may have offended the meeting host, previous reports said, citing a Malaysian official. PND (as)