This handout satellite imagery taken on March 23, 2021 and received on March 25 from Maxar Technologies shows Chinese vessels anchored at the Whitsun Reef, around 320 kilometres (175 nautical miles) west of Bataraza in Palawan in the South China Sea. Chinese vessels gathered near a disputed reef in the South China Sea are “fishing boats” sheltering from poor weather, the foreign ministry said March 22, a day after the Philippines described their presence as an incursion.AFP/Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies, Handout/CTTO.

MANILA, Philippines — The Palace on Sunday urged critics to let President Rodrigo Duterte continue his “careful, calculated, calibrated” approach to tensions with China in the West Philippine Sea instead of calling for “all or nothing” policies.

In a statement sent to reporters, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque again said that asserting the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea  — the part of the South China Sea within its Exclusive Economic Zone — will lead to war. 

“History shows that countries who demand all or nothing policies often get nothing at all, or even end up provoking war. This is exactly what the president is avoiding,” Roque wrote.

“All or nothing policies are not only inconsistent with international law and international reality—they are dangerous and they will not work.”

Members of the Phillippine delegation in the South China Sea arbitration case as well as members of the academe have said that standing by the 2016 arbitral award does not necessarily mean going to war with, and have suggested other possible measures to uphold the ruling.

“The claim that enforcing the arbitral award means going to war with China, a war the Philippines will surely lose, is an utterly false claim, designed to intimidate the Filipino people to submit to the will of China,” retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said in 2019. 

Roque in his statement was responding to pronouncements by Carpio and former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario earlier Thursday, urging the two to “leave international relations to the one who has the foresight, information, and constitutional mandate to make sound foreign policy decisions.”

But even officials on Duterte’s Cabinet have described Beijing as “intruders” with Chinese ships still present in the West Philippine Sea, according to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea

China has rejected the arbitral ruling that the Philippines won in The Hague in 2016 based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which held that China’s sweeping nine-dash line claim has no legal basis.

President Rodrigo Duterte has asserted that he cannot do anything on the maritime dispute as doing so, he claimed, would mean going to war with China.

“[Duterte] knows that, as a responsible member of the world community, the Philippines must pursue its claims by legal and diplomatic means. We must lay the basis for negotiation, by building a relationship of mutual trust and confidence, and without engaging in name-calling and brinkmanship,” Roque said in his statement. 

“He has never renounced our claims and entitlements, and in fact he and his administration have repeatedly and consistently asserted them in bilateral talks with China and in multilateral fora like the United Nations.” (Click here to read more…)