Aquino says dispute with China can’t be fixed ‘now na’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
Aquino says dispute with China can’t be fixed ‘now na’
'Let's just be reasonable about it,' former president Benigno Aquino III says of the Philippines' dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III said there is no quick-fix solution to the Philippines’ dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), as it is crucial to be “reasonable” about the issue.

Referring to China, Aquino said, “You will not want to force them to – what’s the phrase the younger ones say? – now na (do it right now).”

The former Philippine leader said, however, that “there has to be, at some point, an agreement that yes, we’re headed toward” resolving the dispute.

“Let’s just be reasonable about it,” he said.

Aquino made these remarks in a Rappler Talk interview with Maria Ressa on Tuesday, July 18, one of his first interviews after  he ended a yearlong self-imposed silence since stepping down from office on June 30, 2016.

This comes as his successor, President Rodrigo Duterte, downplays the legal victory won by the Philippines against China over the West Philippine Sea – the fruit of an arbitration case filed by the Aquino administration in January 2013. (READ: Aquino: The president who brought China to court)

The Aquino administration had been clear that a legal victory will not immediately end the sea dispute, as it should be followed by other steps. These steps include bilateral talks that use a positive ruling as leverage.

Cooperation a ‘better route’

In his Rappler Talk interview on Tuesday, Aquino explained that China acts based on the will of the Chinese Communist Party. “They respond to the party and not to the people. It’s the be-all and end-all of everything there. It can never be wrong. It has to be right.”

“We recognize the fact that if today they sleep [and say], ‘All of this is ours,’ and tomorrow they wake up and they say, ‘Oh by the way, we made a mistake for the past I don’t know how many decades, that this is not ours pala.’ We know the difficulty and potential instability that might be caused,” he said.

Aquino added: “Of course, we recognize your precious intentions; your limitations. But let’s discuss something even if it cannot be made public right now. That we are headed towards a direction where we really resolve to determine all our obligations and all our rights,” he said. 

Aquino also commented on the Philippines’ current ties with other countries, and said that he is “not a believer in fostering conflicts.” This, as Duterte slams Western countries for supposedly meddling in his anti-drug campaign.

“Where we want to build something, normally, cooperation is a better route to it,” Aquino said. –

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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