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Cracks start to emerge in Philippines’ South China Sea stance

Analysts warn that Manila must demonstrate unity between its defence and political leadership in order to effectively counter Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Teodoro Jnr made his point during a Senate inquiry on Tuesday when Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo gave an update on a mechanism for both countries to work out their differences on the West Philippine Sea, Manila’s name for those parts of the South China Sea that lie within its exclusive economic zone.

A Philippine working group recently met, in preparation for discussions under the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism with their Chinese counterparts next month, to find out whether both countries can agree on confidence-building measures “for a peaceful resolution through international law and diplomacy”, Manalo said.

During the inquiry, Teodoro Jnr said he opposed the plan shared by Manalo as China typically used such talks to weaken Manila’s position.

“No … because they [China] have not displayed a level of trust and confidence that would make me confident enough to engage them on a fair and level-playing-field basis,” Teodoro Jnr said.

According to Teodoro Jnr, since he assumed his current role in June last year, the Philippine and Chinese militaries have yet to meet and discuss issues concerning the West Philippine Sea.

Teodoro Jnr also said an earlier statement by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin that the June 17 incident was a misunderstanding was a “preliminary assessment”.


Chinese and Philippine ships clash in first incident under Beijing’s new coast guard law

“The Philippines has to take a strong stance,” defence analyst Jose Antonio Custodio, a fellow of the Consortium of Indo-Pacific Researchers, told This Week in Asia.