The Vice President has been pushing for a multilateral approach since 2016, urging the government to work with other countries to effectively stand up against Beijing’s actions in disputed maritime territories.
MANILA — If all were to be left to bilateral talks with China, the Philippines would not be able to protect its interests in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), says Vice President Leni Robredo.
“Experts have been saying for a long time that bilateral talks with China will not help our country because we’re too small compared to them. The standing is not equal.
“We should push for multilateral talks, not only with China and the Philippines but with other countries that share our issue, and have the same concern,” says Robredo.
She believes the Philippines can have equal footing “if we have allies who share the same concerns,” she said.
Her comments came days after officials of the Philippines and China met virtually for the sixth engagement of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea.
The BCM was established by President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting in 2016.
Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said “there was mutual recognition of the importance of dialogue in easing tensions and understanding each country’s position and intentions in the area.”
But Robredo insists, “Multilateral talks will help in protecting our interest than bilateral talks.”
She says the Philippines’ 2016 arbitral victory over China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea would have encouraged other nations to hold multilateral talks.
“That [arbitral award] would have been the basis for our unity. It would have strengthened our, and other countries’ resolve to hold multilateral talks because we hold an arbitral decision,” she says.
China has rejected any multilateral approach in resolving competing claims in the resource-rich South China Sea. (RSS/Headline PH)