As incoming President, Rodrigo Duterte has expressed his intentions to conduct bilateral talks with China regarding territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea. According to outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, no president can afford to give up any portion of territorial sovereignty.
With less than two months before his term is ends, President Aquino said that it would be political suicide of any Philippine Leader to give up its claims on the West Philippines Sea, or what China refers to as the South China Sea.
Aquino, in an interview with Time magazine on May 19 asked how any country can expect to survive as a government after giving up portions of its territory and sovereignty.
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."
But Aquino also admits that there have been increased tensions between China and the Philippines over the West Philippines Sea issue, and that both countries have not had any meaningful interaction recently regarding the issue.
Aquino claims that in several instances, China has been bullying the Philippines and at one point, he likened this behavior to that of Hitler's Nazi German just before the outbreak of World War II.
According to the President, his administration found the relations with China to be very challenging. There was a question of "should we push?". They operated under the theory that submitting to China will only further excarbate the bullying and a mutual beneficial agreement can never be made possible.
Aquino made these statements as Duterte is poised to take over as President on June 30. Duterte has made earlier remarks that he wants to be friendly with China and that he prefers bilateral talks with China willing to compromise in exchange for a guaranteed economical boost of Filipino grassroots.
China has not been cooperating with UN arbitration, nor has it been communicating with the current administration.
Senior Associate Justice Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court said that the Constitution bars any Philippine President from conceding the disputed waters to China.