'No Sino-Philippine talks' before tribunal decision

MANILA • The Philippines will not pursue bilateral talks with China until an international tribunal decides on a case brought by the Philippines in connection with claims in the South China Sea, incoming foreign minister Perfecto Yasay has said.

The Philippines has brought a case at an international tribunal in The Hague in 2013 contesting China's claims, a case rejected by China which wants to solve the issue bilaterally.

"We should not pursue any bilateral talks at this time until we hear, or wait for, the outcome of the decision of the arbitral tribunal to come out," Mr Yasay said in an interview with ABS-CBN news channel yesterday.

His remarks followed advice from a former Philippine foreign minister and a United States security expert for President-elect Rodrigo Duterte not to hold unconditional bilateral talks with China to try to resolve the dispute.

China said on Wednesday the Philippines had ignored a proposal for a regular talks mechanism over maritime issues, as it repeated that its door was always open to bilateral talks with Manila.

China claims most of the waters, through which US$5 trillion (S$6.7 trillion) in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.

In its complaint to the United Nations tribunal, the Philippines said China's vast territorial claim, including its occupation of several South China Sea islets and reefs in past years, violates the UN convention and should be declared invalid.

This week, China is reportedly speeding up efforts to build a manned deep-sea platform to help it hunt for minerals in the South China Sea, one that may also serve a military purpose in the disputed waters.

Such an oceanic "space station" would be located as deep as 3,000m below the surface, according to a recent Science Ministry presentation viewed by Bloomberg.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2016, with the headline ''No Sino-Philippine talks' before tribunal decision'. Print Edition | Subscribe