MANILA, Philippines – The mutual pullout of key vessels in Scarborough Shoal is, at least, a good sign that the Philippines and China can arrive at certain agreements, President Benigno Aquino III said.
The Philippines can then show "goodwill" by not bringing the issue to international attention at this point, Aquino also said Wednesday, June 6 (London time), deviating from previous statements.
Noting that both countries have “demonstrated goodwill to each other already," Mr Aquino said that "perhaps we can, for the meantime, not drum up international support for our cause at this point in time, just to provide the best environment for a solution to the entire issue."
This was a departure from his statement last April, when he claimed that international support was the Philippines' best "weapon" in the Scarborough Shoal dispute.
Mr Aquino said then: “They have relations with other nations around the world which would make other nations think, if we are being treated this way... there might come a time when they would also be treated the same way."
However, in a talk with reporters in London on Wednesday before he left for the United States, Aquino confirmed that the recent pullout was a product of talks with China. He was referring to the withdrawal of two Chinese maritime vessels and one Philippine vessel from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on Tuesday, June 5. (Read: PH, China withdraw key ships from 'Panatag.')
The President noted previous incidents in Scarborough Shoal that had one country telling the other to withdraw its ships first.”Mahaba-habang diskusyon eh. Ngayon na sabay na wala na doon, clearly, may pinagkasunduan na goal,” Aquino explained. (It was a long discussion. Now, both countries pulled out its ships, and clearly they agreed on a common goal.)
He said this can ease tension in the area, adding it is important for both parties to repeat the “formula” later on.
The President is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, June 8, in Washington. Officials from both countries said it is likely that the Scarborough dispute will be discussed by both leaders.
China has consistently shown agitation over international involvement in South China Sea disputes, especially the role of the United States in the Asia-Pacific. — Rappler.com
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Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of 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 him at firstname.lastname@example.org.