Talks with Beijing hinge on tribunal ruling: Manila

Activists wearing monkey masks during a rally against Beijing's island-building in the South China Sea, ahead of the Lunar New Year, at the Chinese consulate in Manila on Feb 5.
Activists wearing monkey masks during a rally against Beijing's island-building in the South China Sea, ahead of the Lunar New Year, at the Chinese consulate in Manila on Feb 5. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA • The Philippines may consider two-way talks with China to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but only if it wins its case against Beijing at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague, said Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario.

China refuses to recognise the case lodged by the Philippines with the tribunal and says that all disputes should be resolved through bilateral talks.

Mr del Rosario, who has resigned effective next month because of health reasons, said yesterday that the court may hand down a ruling before May.

"A bilateral approach per se is good," he said in a television interview, three years after Manila filed the case in The Hague, rejecting Beijing's offer of two-way talks.

"When the conclusion of the arbitration is handed down, and if it is in our favour, I think we should initiate (bilateral talks) because we (would) already have a platform by which we can solidly approach the negotiating table. If it's not in our favour, they will approach us."

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan have overlapping claims to the waterways.

United States President Barack Obama will deliver a tough message to China during a summit with South-east Asian countries next week to say that disputes in the South China Sea must be resolved peacefully and not with a big nation "bullying" smaller neighbours, the White House said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline 'Talks with Beijing hinge on tribunal ruling: Manila'. Print Edition | Subscribe