FILING a lawsuit against China in connection with the long-standing disputes in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is "a last resort" of the Philippine government, Malacañang said Thursday, June 14.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. reiterated that the Philippines would avoid legal actions against China, noting that the Duterte government would continue to pursue friendly ties between the two nations.
"Since we have earned respect from and friendship with China, I think, we could talk about it (territorial disputes), instead of immediately filing a case [against Beijing]," the Palace official said in an interview with Palace reporters.
"If we can have a friendly dialogue, let's just talk about it. Litigation is always a last resort," he added.
Roque made the remark amid calls on the Duterte administration to be more assertive with regard to the Philippines' maritime row with China.
The Philippine government has won its historic case filed against China over the South China Sea disputes, when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands ruled in July 2016 that China's sweeping claims to the busy waterway are not valid.
President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has persistently refused to raised the Philippines' legal victory with China, noting that adversarial approach could only lead to Manila's possible "great loss."
China, on the other hand, has continued to ignore the arbitral ruling by stepping up its militarization of its artificial islands in the South China Sea.
In May, China has reportedly deployed its missile weapons on its three reefs in the contested Spratly Islands, and landed nuclear-capable bombers on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands.
Last week, China has once again made headlines when some of its coast guard members are reportedly asking Filipinos fishing in Scarborough Shoal to give them their "best fish."
Roque said the President was already informed about the alleged "fish thievery" incident.
"The President knows about the issue as you know, and he has addressed the issue... We do not concede," he said.
"[It] is fish thievery... If it is happening, it is wrong. We have communicated the fact that we view this to be wrong and teh Chinese have said they are looking into it. Let's await the results of the investigation," he added.
On June 12, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua assured the Duterte administration that China would "responsibly" act on the reported incident in Scarborough Shoal, promising that Chinese Coast Guards's personnel would be punished if they are proven causing harm to the Filipino fishermen. (SunStar Philippines)