THE Philippines should stand firm on its position once the Permanent Court of Arbitration issues a favorable ruling on its claim over its territory in the West Philippine Sea, according to a private think tank.
“The Philippines should immediately set the tone of what is to follow,” Stratbase ADR Institute President Dindo Manhit said at a recent forum on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement organized by the think tank.
“In the days ahead, the country should continue to advocate that all states, including China, must abide by the terms of the ruling and that all claimants should avoid any activity that could worsen tensions in the region,” Manhit said.
Manhit said the incoming Duterte administration could pursue its claim in the South China Sea while still improving the country’s economic partnership with Beijing, as the two are not mutually exclusive.
“Developing a credible defense posture in the region should be seen as a complement to the strategic deterrence provided by US and partnerships with Japan and Australia,” he said.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Lisay Sharland said Edca underscores not only American involvement in the region but is also a reminder of the value of other partnerships for the Philippines.
“Australia and the Philippines will work together in regional platforms to develop architecture supportive of security stability and cooperation and to provide confidence building measures to minimize the risk of conflict in the region,” she said.
The decision is expected to be a test for the Duterte administration, not only on the international rule of law but also on diplomacy and communication.
“How China and the Philippines react to that decision will have an impact on regional security dynamics,” Sharland said.
Prof. Katsuyuki Yakushiji of Toyo University said the Japanese government shares its official stand with the governments of the Philippines, the US and South Korea.
“Any intimidating concept or provocative unilateral action that could alter the status quo, increase tension and disrupt freedom of navigation and overflight should be condemned,” he said.