MALACANANG on Wednesday said it does not see a need for the Philippines to copy the United States’ decision to blacklist Chinese firms to show that it does not condone Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after President Rodrigo Duterte decided to allow Chinese companies banned in the US to continue operating in the Philippines.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier recommended terminating local contracts with any Chinese companies involved in the reclamations in the disputed waters.
Roque said the government is already “satisfied” by asserting its sovereign rights by raising the Hague-based arbitral court’s 2016 decision which invalidates China’s vast claims on the contested territory.
“There is already a decision there that the Philippines has sovereign rights where they build the artificial islands and that means that whoever built those artificial islands had no legal basis to do so and we’re satisfied with that decision,” he said in an interview over CNN Philippines’ The Source.
He said that while the government is not abandoning the Philippines’ historic arbitration victory against China, he believes that the two countries can still enjoy close trade and investment relations.
“For as long as the decision stands, we can proceed forward on matters that we think we can push on such as trade and investment and meanwhile, set aside matters that we cannot resolve perhaps in our lifetime. But we are satisfied the UN tribunal of the sea ruled that only the Philippines could have built on those islands because they form part of our exclusive economic zone,” he said.
According to Roque, President Rodrigo Duterte is bent on pursuing national interest which includes completing all projects under its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.
“The President has actually spoken about the matter. He said we will pursue the national interest and the national interest dictates that we finish the flagship projects of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ and therefore he will not follow footsteps of Americans. He will respect the contracts that we have entered into with Chinese companies,” he said.
Duterte’s decision to allow Chinese firms to continue operations in the country means that projects including the PHP500-billion Sangley International Airport project in Cavite will push through.
The Sangley Airport project was bagged by state-owned China Communications Construction Co. Ltd (CCCC) and Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia.
Several firms related to CCCC were among those facing restrictions imposed by the US.
On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won the arbitration case it lodged against China after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the contested waters.
China, refusing to acknowledge the arbitral ruling, has continued to claim ownership over nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea.
Since Duterte assumed office in 2016, he has opted to pursue a non-adversarial approach to address the maritime row with China.
China plays a crucial role in the Duterte government’s BBB infrastructure program by providing financial assistance for a number of major infrastructure projects like bridges and railways. PNA