Aquino: Giving up West PH Sea claim ‘political suicide’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
Aquino: Giving up West PH Sea claim ‘political suicide’
'I don’t think that any Philippine president...can afford to give up any portion of territorial sovereignty,' President Benigno Aquino III tells Time magazine, as the incoming Duterte administration eyes bilateral talks with China on the dispute

MANILA, Philippines – Less than two months before his term ends, President Benigno Aquino III warned that it would be “political suicide” for any Philippine leader to give up the country’s claim on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 

In an interview with Time magazine on May 19, Aquino said: “I try to put myself in others’ shoes: How does any country give up any sovereignty and expect to survive as a government?” (READ: China and next PH president: Tough to push the reset button)

He added: “I don’t think that any Philippine president, or any leader for that matter, can afford to give up any portion of territorial sovereignty. That would be political suicide.”

At the same time, Aquino admitted that tensions in the West Philippine Sea have prompted the Philippines to “insulate” itself “from more interaction” with China. 

He said he thinks China, “in several instances,” is bullying the Philippines, a point he has raised on several occasions. At one point, Aquino even likened China’s behavior in the West Philippine Sea to that of Nazi Germany before the outbreak of World War II.

The President said: “Should we push? There is a theory that China will tend to push and if you bend, they will push some more. So we’ve had to weigh so many things. How to not exacerbate the situation. How do you give them enough room so that the idea of loss of face does not happen? It’s a work in progress.”

Aquino made these statements as Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is poised to become Philippine president by June 30.

Duterte has said he wants friendly relations with China, and prefers bilateral or one-on-one talks with the Asian giant – the latter’s preferrred mode of negotiations over multilateral talks. 

China has refused to participate in the proceedings of the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal that heard the Philippines’ case against it and said it would not accept its ruling which is expected to be made this month.

In July 2015, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court said the Constitution already bars the next Philippine president from conceding the disputed waters to Beijing. – 

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email