Press Release
April 2, 2023

Tolentino: New exploratory talks with China should be based on arbitral, SC rulings

MANILA - Senator Francis 'TOL' N. Tolentino urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to carefully study the government's plan to have another round of exploratory talks with the People's Republic of China.

In an interview with GMA-DZBB radio, Tolentino said that the DFA should consider the 2016 Hague Arbitral ruling as well as the recent Supreme Court (SC) decision which invalidated and declared unconstitutional the 2005 Tripartite Agreement for Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) before entering into another partnership with the Asian superpower.

"Dapat po siguro yung pakikipag-usap o gagawing pakikipag-usap sa People's Republic of China ng DFA, eh isaalang-alang itong desisyon ng Supreme Court... at isaalang-alang din yung nilalaman ng ating Saligang Batas base po sa ating karapatan sa ating exclusive economic zone," Tolentino, vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said on Sunday.

The 2016 Arbitral Ruling basically invalidated China's 'nine-dash line' claim--the basis of their supposed militaristic expansion in the entire South China Sea region, including the zone along the West Philippine Sea--as well as the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) last January which invalidated the JMSU between the governments of the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

Tolentino also stressed that any new agreement between the Philippines and China should comply with the provisions enshrined under the 1987 Constitution before planning to undertake in exploring mineral seabed resources within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ)--which was also mentioned in the 2016 Arbitral Ruling.

"So dalawa po iyan, hindi lang dapat po sila makipag-usap, mag-prepare kung ano yung gagawin. So, dapat po lahat ito kargo nila 'yung pag protekta sa ating exclusive economic zone, 200 nautical miles from the baseline, at yung desisyon ng Korte Suprema," he added.

The senator admitted that he is quite hesitant over plans of having new rounds of talks with China, considering the series of bullying incidents involving the China Coast Guard and the Chinese Maritime Militia against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) over the past months along the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

"Baka lalong dumami ('yung mga barko ng China sa WPS) kasi sasabihin nilang mayroon kaming karapatan ngayon na mag-drill, mag-conduct ng scientific marine research--eh baka iyon ang gawin, kaya siguro doon ang dapat ay mag-dahan-dahan ang ating Department of Foreign Affairs... baka lalong lumawig pa, maabuso, at lalo pong dumami yung kanilang presensya doon," Tolentino stressed.

Tolentino also added that since the matter involves foreign policy and national security, it's only proper that the Senate must be involved in any future exploratory talks with China.

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