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Philippines says war with China not an option

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ruled out war with China over the South China Sea dispute and said he would like to send former President Fidel Ramos to China for peaceful talks on the issue, the media reported on Friday.

“War … is not an option. So what is the other side? Peaceful talks,” Efe news quoted Duterte as saying.

“I would like to respectfully ask him (Ramos) to go to China and start talks,” he added.

Duterte’s remarks come two days after The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favour of the Philippines over its South China Sea dispute with China.

The PCA concluded that China has no historical rights over the resources in many parts of the disputed region that it claims, and that it aggravated the situation by constructing artificial islands in the area.

Manila has reacted cautiously to Tuesday’s ruling, calling for “restraint and sobriety”, and said it will not respond till the country’s experts have analysed it carefully.

China, however, rejected the ruling, calling it “null and void”, and inaugurated two airports in the disputed reefs in the South China Sea and threatened to establish an air defence zone in the region.

In January 2013 the Philippines had filed a complaint before the PCA alleging that China, which had begun its expansion in several areas of the South China Sea region, was occupying territories that belonged to the Philippines exclusive economic zone.

The court announced its decision on the conflict that centres on the Scarborough atoll and part of the Spratly Islands — a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls and cays whose total or partial sovereignty is also being claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam — after more than three years of judicial process.

Tension in the South China Sea has increased in recent years with governments trading constant accusations and a rise in Chinese military presence in the area.

The Philippines has also signed strategic agreements with the US, Japan and Vietnam to counter China’s presence in the area.

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