The Philippines can definitely regain control of Chinese-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Malacañang said.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this reaction after the Social Weather Stations (SWS) released another survey result, showing that 93 percent of Filipinos believe that it is important that the government regain control over China-occupied islands in the disputed waters.
“Dapat nga 100 percent. Lahat ng Pilipino dapat (It should be 100 percent. It should be all Filipinos)… would want to have control over the areas that are supposed to be ours,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Panelo pointed out the reality that China insists on its “nine-dash line” claim, which covers nearly the entire South China Sea – including the Philippine-claimed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
“But the reality is, may problema tayo doon (we have a problem there) because China claims to own it too,” he added.
Panelo, however, said regaining control may be possible since the Philippines and China continue to engage in bilateral negotiations to resolve the maritime dispute.
“Bakit hindi? Sinasabi na nga may negotiations eh. Kung pumayag ang ka-negotiate mo, o eh ‘di done (Why not? We’re saying there are negotiations. If who you’re negotiating with agrees, then it’s done),” Panelo said.
“Kung hindi naman pumayag, o ‘di mag-usap pa uli (If they don’t agree, then we’ll negotiate again),” he added.
Asked about the chances that bilateral talks will be effective, Panelo said there is no way to find out unless the government tries.
“Eh, hindi natin alam kung anong (We don’t know what are the) chances but we’re doing it,” Panelo said.
He also insisted that President Rodrigo Duterte will stand pat on diplomatic negotiations to settle the sea row.
Meanwhile, he dismissed the idea that the survey results showed that the Duterte administration has had a shortcoming in asserting its territorial claims.
“Not necessarily. Ang tanong naman eh, is it important – ‘yun ang tanong eh. Eh kung iyon ang tanong, ‘di siyempre 100 percent dapat ang sagutin ‘yes (The question is, is it important — that’s the question. If that’s the question, of course 100 percent should say yes),” Panelo said.
In the survey, 74 percent of the respondents said it is “very important” that the control of the islands that China currently occupies in the West Philippine Sea is given back to the Philippines.
Nineteen percent said it is “somewhat important”, 1 percent answered “not at all important” and 4% were undecided on the issue.(PNA)
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