Philippine ambassador to China, Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana, admitted that despite warm relations between the Philippines and China, the latter’s claim on Spratlys remain strong.
Sta. Romana noted that Chinese leader Xi Jinping still has no plans of ordering the withdrawal of Chinese Coast Guard ships guarding the Scarborough shoal. During talks, Xi would still insist that it is Chinese territory.
But Sta. Romana admits that talks about the disputes need to be dealt carefully. He was quoted by ABS-CBN saying, “Given that, you really have to maneuver slowly, carefully.”
It was November last year when relations about the dispute started improving. China allowed Filipino fishermen to fish in the surrounding waters of Scarborough shoal.
“Disputes remain, the challenges remain, but now we have found a method, a mechanism, and part of this is importance of strategic cooperation,” Sta. Romana continued.
He also noted the difference with Duterte’s and the previous administration’s approach. Duterte’s approach builds a friendly and cooperative atmosphere and makes use of bilateral and multilateral approach.
“The thinking before, what’s ours is ours, we should assert,” Sta. Romana said. “We were hoping that the (United States) would help. That’s the wrong assumption.”
The Philippines remains to be a “friend to all, enemy to none” as it tries to relax the tension in the region.
Aside from the Philippines, other countries that claim the South China Sea in part or in whole are Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.