MANILA — Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Sunday said the Philippines appreciates the offer of United States President Donald Trump to fill in a mediator role in the existing dispute between China and littoral countries in the South China Sea.
“We thank him for it. It’s a very kind, generous offer because he is a good mediator,” Cayetano said in an ambush interview at the Marriott Hotel. “He is the master of the art of the deal.”
While Manila appreciates Trump’s “honest” offer, Cayetano said claimant countries in the contested waters must first give their take on the proposal.
“Of course, the claimant countries have to answer as a group or individually, and not one country can just give an instant reply because mediation involves all of the claimants and non-claimants,” he pointed out.
He reaffirmed that the parties involved are “making giant steps forward” in talking about the code of conduct, a stronger document compared to the non-binding 2002 Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea.
Cayetano also noted that claimants are making progress on talks about preserving marine life, allowing fishermen to continue livelihood in the area, having less navy and most coast guards and more cooperation among others.
“In any conflict around the world, you want peace and stability. So we welcome that offer, let’s see how everyone’s response. In cases like this, the response has to come from everyone,” he said.
During the interview, he said the American president seems to “want” to have a better world in general. “He’s going far and beyond the American first and just being there for America. He wants it to be a world of peace and stability and we thank him for that.”
Trump during his visit to Vietnam was quoted as saying: “If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know.”
“I‘m a very good mediator and arbitrator,” Trump was quoted as saying.