China is claiming about 90 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea and West Philippine Sea, but its claim was invalidated by a UN-backed arbitral tribunal based in The Hague in 2016.
KJ Rosales
Palace: 'Philippines not giving up territory'
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 13, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — As the country marked the second anniversary yesterday of its legal victory over China in an international court over maritime claims, Malacañang vowed to continue asserting the country’s sovereignty and dared critics to challenge its handling of the issue before the courts.

China is claiming about 90 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea and West Philippine Sea, but its claim was invalidated by a UN-backed arbitral tribunal based in The Hague in 2016.

The previous Aquino administration filed the case in 2013 to challenge China’s “exaggerated” and “excessive” claim. Beijing vowed not to comply with the ruling, which affirmed the Philippines’ maritime entitlements.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said allegations that President Duterte has given up on the Philippines’ maritime claims are “farthest from the truth.”

“It is the second anniversary of our win in the arbitration before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and we assure the public that… we will continue to assert what is ours while we move on with our bilateral relations with China,” Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

“The President has repeatedly said we would continue to stand by our claims but until the issue is not resolved, we will let our relationship with China move forward in other fields, especially in the economy,” he added.

Duterte had repeatedly said he would not declare war with China as doing so would lead to a “massacre” of Filipino soldiers. He had even joked about wanting the Philippines to become a province of China.

“We continue to assert our sovereignty and sovereign rights. But we have decided to move on to issues which are non-controversial because we know that the final resolution, particularly on the issues of sovereignty on the disputed islands, will take many, many, many years to resolve since this was not a subject of the arbitral ruling that we won two years ago,” Roque said.

“It is a free country, they can file it. And we will meet them in court,” Roque said in reaction to a statement from former solicitor-general Florin Hilbay claiming groups were planning to file a case with the Supreme Court to compel the Department of Foreign Affairs to disclose its diplomatic actions against China’s military buildup in the South China Sea. 

Roque said he had already revealed details of some of the government’s diplomatic actions on the maritime row at his previous press briefings.

“I have said that we are discussing this in the bilateral mechanism that we have in China, which also has the effect of a protest. The President has publicly protested in some instances and I know of formal protests filed directly with the embassy upon expressed direction of the President,” the spokesman said. 

“So we have said all this; we are not hiding what we have been doing to protect our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

“He (Hilbay) should file impeachment if he wants, he’s welcome; it’s a free country,” Roque said.

He also lambasted former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario for calling the Philippines a “willing victim” of China’s provocations.

“I don’t know what makes him (Del Rosario) an authority to give that view... I’m not sure what they mean by enforcing an arbitral decision, because an arbitral decision is binding on parties thereto. It clearly underscores the fact that some individuals, including the former secretary of foreign affairs, does not fully comprehend the nature of arbitration,” Roque said.

He insisted that the Philippines is benefiting from Duterte’s friendship with China. 

“When there are issues, we dialogue as friends, not argue as adversaries. All this time, we are building up our capabilities to eventually assert our sovereign rights and interests. That is the policy that works for our nation,” he added.

Liberal Party president Sen. Francis Pangilinan urged the Duterte administration to make it clear to the people if it is serious about upholding the country’s sovereignty.

“Two years after the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Filipinos wonder what the international legal victory means for them,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

“Peaceful, concrete actions are possible, especially after the historic ruling,” Pangilinan said.

“The challenge, not only for the Philippine and Chinese governments, but for all of us, people directly and indirectly affected, is to imagine and work toward a region where conflicts are resolved peacefully, with mutual respect and for the common good,” he added.

Sen. Leila de Lima said the victory should not be forgotten by the people. “It was a testament to the hard work and determination of a nation to prove to the world that right always prevails over might. It became the tangible proof of the honor of Filipinos and their commitment to wage a principled and peaceful struggle against the might and force of a super power,” De Lima said in a statement.

“The arbitral award and, in effect, the Philippines, has provided these countries the moral and legal force necessary to implement a regime of international law in the South China Sea vis-a-vis China’s plans of control and military domination in the region,” De Lima said.

“It will continue to be the benchmark of exemplary global statesmanship, in contrast to the shamelessness and cowardice that characterizes the policy of mendicancy and subservience of the Duterte government,” she added.

‘Province of China’

Roque described as “absurd” the sprouting of tarpaulins around Metro Manila welcoming visitors to the Philippines, “province of China.”

“I’m sure it’s the enemies of our government behind it. So to them: try again, you need a better gimmick than that,” the spokesman said.

Emblazoned with an image of the Chinese flag and dragons, the banners also included a translation of the message in Mandarin. Images of the banners quickly circulated on social media, angering Filipino netizens.

Asked to identify the “enemies of the government” behind the tarpaulins, Roque replied: “I don’t know but certainly we have nothing to gain by hanging those tarpaulins.”

He said those who displayed the tarpaulins “are obviously propagating a lie that we have given up on our national territory.”

Asked if the Palace wants the tarpaulins taken down, Roque said: “Well, we won’t do anything but I’m sure some people want to get those tarps and use them. Perhaps they can be used to wipe the floor or place them in the bathroom. It’s up to them.”

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) immediately had the tarpaulins removed, and the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) ordered an investigation to determine who were behind the prank.

“This is being investigated,” NCRPO director Chief Supt. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar said.

“We wanted to know who could be behind the hanging of the streamers at footbridges and their possible motive, so I’ve ordered an investigation,” he said.

The banners were seen hanging from footbridges across the metropolis particularly on Philcoa, Quezon Ave., corner D. Tuazon and Ever Gotesco Commonwealth in Quezon City.

“Not funny,” Hilbay said of the appearance of the tarpaulins.

In an advisory, the Quezon City local government also said it had directed concerned offices to take down the banners within its jurisdiction.  –  Janvic Mateo, Non Alquitran, Emmanuel Tupas, Romina Cabrera, Robertzon Ramirez

PERMANENT COURT OF ARBITRATION SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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