Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay has assured that the Philippine government will not compromise its people's rights as it mulls its next move on its territorial dispute with China following an international tribunal's ruling.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Yasay told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the 11th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Mongolia that the Philippines is still studying its next move after the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration's favorable ruling.
"He stated that the decision of the tribunal provides a legal basis to move forward, and the Philippine government is currently studying the ruling very carefully," the DFA said in a statement on Yasay's meeting with Abe.
It added that Yasay told Abe: "The Philippine Constitution prohibits entering into any agreement that would compromise national interests and rights of Filipinos."
The DFA, however, did not elaborate if Yasay was referring to the proposed bilateral talks with China.
GMA News Online sought more details from Yasay and DFA spokesman Charles Jose but they have yet to reply as of posting time.
The DFA said that Abe told Yasay that "the rule of law and the need for peaceful means to resolve disputes."
Yasay was previously criticized for saying in an interview that he was open to entering into arrangements with China such as a possible joint exploration and utilization of resources falling under the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
The Cabinet official, however, clarified that any negotiation must be in the context of the arbitration ruling.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had said that a joint development within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is prohibited by the Constitution.
What is allowed, Carpio said, was contracting other companies to do the drilling just like what is being done in the Malampaya natural gas project off Palawan.
“The EEZ is exclusive that is why you cannot have joint development. That is exclusive, so why will you share? What we can do is ask other countries to develop and we will pay them,” Carpio said in a television interview on Thursday.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier asked former President Fidel Ramos, who has maintained good relations with Chinese leaders over the years, to fly to Beijing to lead the country's negotiations with China in light of the ruling by the Hague-based court.
Ramos has yet to accept the offer.
The court ruled Beijing's actions in the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually, had interfered with the Philippines' sovereign rights.
Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the strategic waterway.
No PHL-China bilateral talks at summit
Meanwhile, a report by Reuters said there was no bilateral meeting between the Chinese and Philippines foreign ministers during on the sidelines of the summit.
The report said that the Chinese had initially requested a meeting at the beginning of the summit.
Chinese officials did not speak to foreign reporters during the summit. China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the summit and the South China Sea, it added.
State news agency Xinhua quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as saying on Saturday in Mongolia that the court's decision would have "no impact whatsoever" on Chinese sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. —with a report from Reuters/ALG, GMA News