Talks with Manila welcomed without arbitration attached

By An Jun (Global Times) / August 25, 2016

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday that he expects bilateral talks withBeijing over the South China Sea issue within a year, according to the Philippine Star. Hecalled on China to let Philippine fishermen enter the disputed waters of Huangyan Island,but added that when this possible dialogue occurs, “It’s impossible [not to bring up theSouth China Sea arbitration award] … when we are face to face and we come up with hardfacts.”

The question is, however, what kind of negotiation with China does Duterte want? Afunctional and efficient one, or a useless, meaningless one? It seems that he might haveneglected the bottom line that Beijing insists on – putting the arbitration award behind us.

China welcomes Manila to return to bilateral talks, but if the Philippines insists on theaward as a precondition, the negotiations won’t get off the ground.

After the curtain falls on the South China Sea arbitration farce, Manila has realized thatnow comes the hard part. Duterte’s recent moves and remarks indicate he wants to easethe tension, including sending the country’s former president Fidel Ramos as an ice-breaker in bilateral ties, as well as signaling he is open to shelving the arbitration award.

As a nation that is hungry for energy and lacks money and technology, Manila has limitedcards to play. Repairing its relationship with Beijing is without doubt an optimal choice.

In the meantime, the South China Sea, which is home to over 3,000 species of fish, isalways a focus of attention in the Philippines, one of the top fish producing nations in theworld.

Unfortunately, given the illegal fishing, overfishing and clashes over sovereign disputes inthe area, the worsening livelihoods of many of the coastal populations in the Philippineshas become an urgent problem. Read more…

 

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