MANILA, Philippines - It’s now her turn.
In a press briefing yesterday, former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accused her successor of provoking China and triggering the latter’s island building frenzy in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.
The last straw, she said, was the Aquino administration’s contesting China’s massive nine-dash line claim before the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague.
“Built during the previous administration!” a smiling Arroyo repeatedly told reporters, referring to artificial island fortresses built by the Chinese in waters within Philippine territory.
Her lawyer Estelito Mendoza was in the same briefing, where he launched his book, “The Ocean Space or the Maritime Area of the Philippines.”
“To me, up to now it (Manila’s maritime protest) is a source of enquiry on why we filed the arbitral claim. It was provoked by the arbitral claim of the Philippines,” Mendoza said.
“In effect, we were fighting in The Hague, but China was winning the seas. Before, I don’t remember China having such claims as nine-dash line,” Mendoza pointed out.
Arroyo also defended her much-criticized Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking with China and Vietnam. JMSU is a tripartite agreement Manila entered into with the state-owned oil firms of China and Vietnam in 2004.
“The language, it was without prejudice to the filing of a protest. And since it was just a research survey, it does not affect the respective positions of the countries on issues related to the claim,” she argued.
Mendoza recalled that unlike during Aquino’s six-year term, the ties between China and the rest of the world were peaceful.
“Under the Arroyo administration, there was relatively peace and quiet with China. And not just that, there was also cooperation. There was cooperation, not necessarily war, and perhaps it was the best solution,” he told newsmen.
Arroyo also bragged about the fact that China “never questioned” the Philippines’ Baselines Law (RA 9522) during her nine-year term that ended in June 2010.
“China didn’t file a protest and they even recognized our 200-mile exclusive economic zone,” Arroyo emphasized, affirming Mendoza’s position that only two areas were being claimed by Beijing then – Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and Kalayaan Group of Islands.
Being an economist, she said the thrust of her administration was steering the country to development.
“As far as China is concerned, we should be more focused on our economic relations and be able to transcend such issues,” she said.
“Let’s continue with our economic ties and transcend the matter between us,” she stressed.
Mendoza also lauded the passage of the Baselines Law during the time of Arroyo.
“Without this (archipelagic baselines law), each island will be an island in itself and will not be an integral part of the country.