Palace on next step after arbitration ruling: ‘Top priority will be national interest’

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016. Filed under: Philippine News
Members of the Cabinet meet for the second meeting presided by President Rodrigo R. Duterte at the State Dining Room in Malacañan Palace on July 11. (MNS photo)

Members of the Cabinet meet for the second meeting presided by President Rodrigo R. Duterte at the State Dining Room in Malacañan Palace on July 11. (MNS photo)

MANILA  (Mabuhay) — The government’s next step in dealing with the territorial dispute in the South China Sea after the arbitration court issues its ruling will be based on the premise that national interest is the administration’s priority, a Malacañang spokesman said Tuesday.

At a media briefing, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said “everything will be subject to a discussion” after the Permanent Court of Arbitration releases its decision on the territorial dispute case filed by the Philippines against China.

The court earlier said the ruling will be handed down at approximately 11 a.m The Hague time, 5 p.m. in Manila.

“Everything will have to be subject to a discussion. After all, it’s going to be a lengthy decision and there will be a number of details that need to be properly threshed out before any statement – any decision is made publicly,” Abella said.

“The top priority will be national interest. Definitely, national interest,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier cautioned his Cabinet members not to use the arbitration court’s decision to “taunt or flaunt,” saying he doesn’t want to “put the country in an awkward position.”

“We will study progressively kung paano natin magagamit yun. Of course, it would be a moral victory but we can’t put country in an awkward position,” Duterte said.

Abella said Duterte will likely call for a meeting with his Cabinet and the security cluster once the decision is released.

The Palace spokesman, however, said that it would defer comment on the decision to Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay.

“The Secretary’s statement will serve as the… He will be the one speaking for and in behalf,” Abella said.

Over the weekend, Yasay had to issue a statement clarifying his position on entering into negotiations with China on possible joint exploration of oil and other resources in the South China Sea even if Manila wins the arbitration case next week.

Yasay said he was misquoted by the Agence France Presse, the global news agency that interviewed him ahead of the ruling.(MNS)

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