‘Rody’s remarks at UN meet official policy on WPS row’

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement at the 75th UN General Assembly on the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award stands “as the supreme expression of foreign policy on the West Philippine issue.”

The DFA issued the statement in the wake of statements made by the President that dismissed the tribunal’s ruling as a mere “sheet of paper” that could be thrown in the trash bin.

The DFA said it will "continue to implement the President's foreign policy statement in accordance with Philippine national interest."

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said while the 2016 award shot down Beijing’s “historical pretensions of claims,” it did not order China to leave the West Philippine Sea nor the features it seized.

“Like all international bodies, it has no enforcement capability or authority unlike the Security Council by unanimous vote. The only body that can kick another country out of its territory is the one whose territory was taken; and the time to do that was when our Navy ship faced off with Chinese ship(s),” Locsin said, referring to the previous administration.

On Thursday, Locsin expressed his support for the suggestion of President Duterte that former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario and former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio be investigated and be held liable for the questionable pullout of a Philippine navy vessel during the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012.

Carpio, however, said he had nothing to do with the withdrawal, since he was still in the Supreme Court at the time.

Del Rosario, on the other hand, said the pullout was part of a US-brokered deal to ease tensions in the area, but China did not honor its side of the agreement and seized Scarborough Shoal afterward.

Despite not being part of the Executive branch, Carpio said he recommended that the Philippines respond to the seizure by bringing China to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea tribunal “to assail the validity of China’s nine-dash line which is China’s basis in claiming the West Philippine Sea.”

“The Aquino administration agreed and filed the South China Sea Arbitration case in January 2013. The Philippines won a landmark victory when the arbitral tribunal issued its Award on July 12, 2016 invalidating China’s nine-dash line as without legal or factual basis. The tribunal ruled that China has no overlapping interest or claim to the Philippine exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea,” the retired SC magistrate said.

Unfortunately, Carpio said, President Duterte, who had assumed office by then, announced that he was “setting aside” the Arbitral Award in favor of seeking loans and investments from China amounting to $22 billion.

“Today, less than 5 percent of those loans and investments have materialized even as President Duterte is already leaving office next year. And yet President Duterte even allowed China to fish in our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea despite admitting that there is not enough fish stock there for both Filipino and Chinese fishermen,” Carpio said.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Friday said President Duterte’s recent remarks that denigrated the 2016 legal victory of the Philippines against China's claims to its waters could be “borne out of frustration.”

“I believe that PRRD’s sentiments about the matter were already made clear during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, where his audience was composed of world leaders and heads of state: The Philippines is not surrendering its sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea,” Velasco said.

“Although I cannot speak for the President, I suspect that his more recent pronouncements were borne out of frustration, as he contemplates the very difficult task of balancing diplomatic relations, national interest, and economic recovery amidst an unprecedented global pandemic,” Velasco added.

Velasco said the issue on the West Philippine Sea “is purely a concern that should be best left to the Executive Department, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense.”

Topics: Department of Foreign Affairs , Rodrigo Duterte , 75th UN General Assembly , West Philippine Sea
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