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Sea case vs China tackled in first Duterte Cabinet meet

At the first Cabinet meeting of the Duterte administration in Malacañang yesterday, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. said the DFA will study the implications and ramification of the upcoming decision of the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision on the case filed by the Philippines against China.

“The first thing we’ll do when we get the decision is to study its implications and its ramifications,” Yasay said.

The Arbitral Tribunal is expected to hand down its decision on the case filed by the Philippines against China on July 12, 2016. The case contests China’s Nine Dash Line theory.

Yasay said he is not in favor of making stronger statements against China in case the Philippines wins in international court.

“During our briefings with the various government representatives here, especially those concerned with ensuring freedom of navigation and maritime security, they seem to project the impression that if the decision will come out and it would be in our favor, they would like for us to make stronger statements. I am adversed to that idea,” Yasay said.

Yasay said the international community is concerned with the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, noting that 60 percent of global trade passes by the South China Sea.

He, however, said other countries like the United States are pursuing their own national interests both economic and military.

“For us, we are, insofar as our claim is concerned, we are just really asking the Arbitral Tribunal to declare what are our rights insofar as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or maritime entitlements we have under UNCLOS. It doesn’t kick into play the mutual defense agreement,” Yasay said.

“When the decision will come, we will advise, we will come up with the study [on] the case and inform the President and the Cabinet the action,” he said. See related story on page 5. (Madel Sabater-Namit)