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PH, China still need to talk – Yasay

Incoming acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. believes that it is still necessary for the Philippines to engage China in bilateral talks with regards to their territorial dispute over parts of the resource-rich West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.

Yasay made this statement even as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is expected to issue a ruling in the coming weeks on the long-standing maritime dispute.

“I think there is no other way in resolving this dispute except talking to each other,” Yasay told reporters in an ambush interview yesterday after his “familiarity meting” with foreign affairs officials, led by outgoing Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City.

Still, the government must wait for the ruling of the United Nations-backed arbitration court before taking further steps to resolve the decades-old underlying sovereignty disputes, Yasay said.

“I don’t not want to raise your hopes, gusto ko rin malaman kung ano magiging desisyon ng tribunal at implikasyon ng desisyon ,” the former Securities and Exchange Commission chair said. “Paano natin maenforce yan agadgad? How are we going to implement the peaceful resolution? Yan ang kailangan malaman natin ng todo bago tayo mag-proceed.”

In the meantime, Yasay said he wants to make sure that when he assumes office, he will hit the ground running.

This is the reason why beginning today until June 9, he said he will be attending a series of meetings with foreign affairs officials to get him acquainted with the structure of the department that he will be heading in holdover capacity as president-elect Rodrigo Duterte already promised the DFA portfolio to his running mate, Sen. Alan Peter S. Cayetano, but he has to observe the one-year ban on appointing those who lost in the elections.

“Hopefully, I will be able to attend these meetings without having to postpone some because of intervening urgent matters,” he said. “I just wanted to be familiar with the structure, questions of how policies are formulated.”

A major part of his meeting with DFA officials touched on the West Philippine Sea issue, its nature and specific concerns, Yasay revealed. “All I know about the issue is what I read in the papers,” he said.

Later, he said, he will have an audience with the Solicitor General for the purpose of discussing the implications and the status of the country’s cause with the adhoc tribunal.